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Capitol Health Call
December 12, 2012

Physician Self-Referrals

JAMA. 2012;308(22):2327. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.111282

Physician self-referral for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) services is costing Medicare more than $100 million annually, reported the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The GAO report, released October 31, looked at MRI and CT services from 2004 through 2010 and found the number of self-referred MRI services increased by more than 80%, compared with a 12% increase for MRI services that were not self-referred. For CT services, the GAO report found self-referred services more than doubled, while CT services that were not self-referred increased by about 30%. The report also found that physicians who began self-referring in 2009 increased MRI and CT referral on average by about 67% in 2010 compared with 2008; by contrast, the average number of referrals declined among physicians whose referral status did not change in that time, whether they were self-referrers or not (

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