Beyond Election 2012

And just like that, it was over. The 2012 presidential campaign came to an end this week, capping another seemingly endless election season. The confetti has been swept from the stage in Chicago, the polls have been unskewed, and the ballots have mostly been counted (looking your way, Florida).

The effects of the election, of course, will be felt for some time, particularly in the realm of healthcare. With President Obama retaining the Oval Office and Democrats holding onto the Senate, there’s little chance of a repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It’s a matter of time before all of the law’s provisions are implemented, and we should expect the spread of payment models emphasizing bundled care and appropriate use of healthcare dollars. Radiologists will still have to adjust to a 75 percent equipment utilization assumption rate for imaging equipment, and only private practices that can demonstrate the most efficient services will survive.

These factors will continue to increase the hospital employment rate for radiologists, which has grown steadily for a decade and is approaching 20 percent by some estimates. For this group, a Journal of the American College of Radiology (JACR) article published this month about how to make the most of a hospital employment arrangements will be of particular interest. The authors suggested making sure the hospital is providing suitable investment in equipment, as well as completely understanding how the hospital handles billing, contracting and staffing, among other issues.

Other big news out of Washington was the release of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report which said self-referrals in advanced imaging added approximately $109 million in costs to Medicare in 2010. The GAO recommended the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reign in self-referral costs by making providers indicate whether a service was self-referred, implementing a payment reduction for self-referred imaging and supporting efforts to ensure appropriateness of self-referred advanced imaging orders. Some professional associations responded to the report with statements urging policymakers to not act too hastily as the utilization of advanced imaging has tailed off in recent years—a point underscored by another JACR article this month which showed CT used dropped in 2010.

To round out the week’s other big news, the American Society of Breast Disease issued a statement saying physicians should share breast density and cancer risk information with women, and researchers revealed an association between smaller amygdala volume and post-traumatic stress disorder using 3T MRI.

As always, send us any suggestions on how we can improve our coverage, and be sure to look out for our RSNA previews leading up to the conference later this month.

Now, who’s ready to analyze some 2016 primary polling with me?

Evan God, staff writer