Radiology Digest – June 10, 2022

June 10, 2022

Radiology Digest: News from the week of June 10, 2022.

Fines Kicking in After Slow Start to Hospital Transparency Rule
By Alex Kacik | June 9, 2022 | Included in Radiology Digest – June 10, 2022

Fewer than 6% of hospitals obeyed the price transparency rule during the early months of implementation, a new study shows.

Of the 5,239 hospitals studied, 13.9% had a machine-readable file but not a consumer friendly display, 29.4% had a consumer-friendly display but no machine-readable file and only 5.7% had both, according to research published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Hospitals in unconcentrated healthcare markets were more likely to comply with the rule compared with their counterparts in highly consolidated markets, the findings from July through September of last year show.

“Advocates of transparency have a fight on their hands, and those who want to keep their prices secret are highly motivated to do so,” Katherine Hempstead, a senior policy adviser at the nonprofit research group Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said in an email, noting there are low consequences for hospitals that ignore the regulations or only partially comply.

“It is too bad that so far the public is not benefiting as intended from these hospital transparency regulations, but I do think those entities who may think they are winning this battle will ultimately lose the war,” she said. “Time is not on their side.”

To read more, go to Modern Healthcare.

Technologist Salary Survey Shows Raises Across All Practice Areas
By Dave Pearson | June 9, 2022 | Included in Radiology Digest – June 10, 2022

The best-paid diagnostic radiology technologists, MRI specialists, have enjoyed pay raises of an average 8.2% over the past three years, according to a survey released this month by ASRT, the American Society of Radiologic Technologists.

MRI techs earned an average annual salary of $76,177 in 2019 and are averaging $82,395 in 2022.

Overall, technologists across all modalities saw their pay rise 11.2%, to an average $77,027, during that window.

More findings from the survey, which drew completed responses from 10,775 techs (8% of practicing ASRT members):
• X-ray techs had the largest collective pay hike, 12.8%, which took them from $57,865 in 2019 to $65,246 in 2022.
• CT techs went from $69,896 to $78,159, an increase of 11.8%.
• Mammographers followed, rising 10.6% to $79,323 this year from $71,725 three years ago.

The top earners among all radiologic technologists work in medical dosimetry—2022 average annual salary, $131,766—and breast MRI, at $119,944.

In addition, outside of diagnostic circles, radiation therapists are now averaging $96,650 per year. That’s up 8.4% from $89,159 in 2019.

In a news release relaying the above findings, ASRT notes radiologic technologists’ overall satisfaction with their earnings: Half the field said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their benefits, while almost as many, 47%, said the same of their pay.

To read more, go to Radiology Business.

Biden Signs MAMMO Act to Improve Breast Imaging for Veterans
By Brian Casey | June 7, 2022 | Included in Radiology Digest – June 10, 2022

President Joe Biden on June 7 signed the Making Advances in Mammography and Medical Options for Veterans Act (the MAMMO Act), legislation that would improve breast imaging services for military veterans.

The legislation includes a variety of provisions that would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to upgrade and expand the range of breast imaging and treatment services it offers to veterans. Major provisions in the act include the following:
• A requirement to upgrade all VA facilities to digital breast tomosynthesis (3D mammography)
• Implementation of a three-year pilot program to provide telescreening mammography services in areas where access to a VA facility is difficult
• Submission of a strategic plan for improving breast imaging services for veterans
• Creation of guidelines to increase the use of molecular testing and genetic counseling for veterans who have been diagnosed with breast cancer
• A review of the accessibility of breast imaging services at VA sites for veterans who have paralysis, spinal cord injuries or disorders, or other kinds of disabilities
• A report authored by the VA inspector general to the VA and U.S. Congress on mammography services provided by the VA

The MAMMO Act also requires that each Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) enter into a partnership with at least one cancer center of the U.S. National Cancer Institute to ensure that women veterans have access to high-quality cancer care. Veterans in rural areas should be able to receive care through telehealth, the legislation stipulates.

Passage and signature of the MAMMO Act was lauded by veteran’s groups, including the Paralyzed Veterans of America, which noted that women are one of the fastest-growing populations of veterans yet are at higher risk for breast cancer than civilian women.

The group further noted that across the 171 VA medical centers in the U.S., just 69 have mammography screening equipment available, and not all of these sites are accessible to female veterans with physical disabilities.

To read more, go to Aunt Minnie.

2 Million Affected in Shields Health Care Group Cyberattack
By Max Abrams | June 7, 2022 | Included in Radiology Digest – June 10, 2022

Two million people who sought care at more than 50 Shields Health Care Group partners across the New England region may have had their personal data exposed after the company’s network server was breached in March.

The cyberattack occurred between March 7 and March 21 and was discovered March 28, the healthcare group said Tuesday.

The breach is the largest of the year in healthcare, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights’ breach portal, surpassing the January breach of the North Broward Hospital District in Florida that affected more than 1.3 million people.

To read more, go to Modern Healthcare.

Image-based Data Commons Enjoying Fast Growth Thanks to RSNA, ACR, Other Contributing Orgs
By Dave Pearson | June 7, 2022 | Included in Radiology Digest – June 10, 2022

A multi-institutional image-data repository launched to support AI-based research into COVID-19 has been the beneficiary of more than 30,000 anonymized imaging files from the Radiological Society of North America alone.

RSNA announced the milestone June 2, saying the open-access Medical Imaging and Data Resource Center—MIDRC, pronounced midric—has taken less than two years to “[realize] the benefits of new algorithms and the resulting innovations in machine learning.”

The MIDRC project is funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) and hosted at the University of Chicago.

Along with RSNA, lead contributing associations are the American College of Radiology (ACR) and the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM).

The MIDRC website shows the project had ingested almost 125,000 imaging studies as of late April. Of these, close to 95,000 are undergoing data harmonization and some 29,630 have already been released to the public.

To read more, go to Radiology Business.

Legal Experts Expect ‘More Scrutiny’ of Medicare Prior Authorization From Feds
By Maya Goldman | June 6, 2022 | Included in Radiology Digest – June 10, 2022

As the federal government’s attention to improper Medicare Advantage prior authorization denials intensifies, insurers should consider examining their policies if they want to avoid trouble.

Hospitals have called on the Justice Department to use the False Claims Act against Medicare Advantage carriers that improperly deny coverage. Health insurance companies ought to take a closer look at their policies and how employees are trained to implement them, said Scott Stein, a partner at Sidley Austin and editor of the law firm’s False Claims Act blog.

“I do suspect that there’s going to be a lot more scrutiny in this area,” Stein said.

The False Claims Act is generally enforced against providers that knowingly submit fraudulent claims to Medicare or Medicaid. Whether the statute also governs prior authorization denials is up for debate.

Even for situations in which it could apply, evidence that the denials and the appeals processes were so egregious that they go beyond contract violations would have to be strong, said Jason Christ, a healthcare fraud and abuse attorney at Epstein Becker Green.

But federal interest in Medicare Advantage enforcement follows a familiar pattern that often ends with the Justice Department getting involved.

“There’s a lot of ingredients here that you see before what I’ll call a ‘sweep,'” Christ said. “You always sort of look at: How interesting would something like this be to a finder-fact jury or a judge?”

The federal government has already voiced concerns about Medicare Advantage insurers upcoding diagnoses to inflate risk adjustment scores. The Justice Department intervened in a False Claims Act case against a health insurer last year.

To read more, go to Modern Healthcare.

TN Court Develops Platform for Negotiating Medical Debt Challenges
By Victoria Bailey | June 6, 2022 | Included in Radiology Digest – June 10, 2022

A Tennessee court has developed an online dispute resolution platform to help residents negotiate solutions to medical debt challenges without filing a lawsuit.

Judge Alex McVeagh of the Hamilton County General Sessions Court helped create the online process with support from the Tennessee Supreme Court and the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts.

The online dispute resolution platform is available to people with medical debts owed to Erlanger Baroness Hospital. Individuals can register on the TN Med Debt site, where they send a message to the health system regarding their medical debt.

An Erlanger representative can send messages back and offer possible strategies to manage the debt, such as payment plans or adjusted pricing. The feature on the platform is asynchronous, allowing parties to send messages at any time.

Attorneys from Legal Aid of East Tennessee helped develop the language on the platform that guides participants through the dispute process.

“This is a program that is designed to give you and the healthcare provider an opportunity to discuss, negotiate, and possibly agree on some deal to resolve a medical bill,” McVeagh said in the press release. “And best of all, it’s completely free, voluntary, and confidential.”

Individuals with medical debt can also use the platform to request assistance from a Rule 31- trained mediator. Rule 31 is Tennessee’s Alternative Dispute Resolution regulation that allows civil or domestic court case parties to use mediation.

If users choose to request a mediator, the mediator will not take a side in the negotiation and will work to generate potential solutions that satisfy both parties, the court said.

McVeagh and fellow creators said they hope the online dispute resolution platform will help people work out their medical debt challenges without experiencing the disruption of appearing in a courtroom.

To read more, go to Revcycle Intelligence.

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