(DIAGNOSTIC IMAGING) -- The ability to self-refer may explain why cardiologists were better able than radiologists to adjust to Medicare rate cuts after the implementation of reimbursement reforms from the federal Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. By delving into the Medicare Part B database, Dr. David Levin, a professor of radiology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, identified stark differences in imaging-related payment and utilization patterns for cardiologists and radiologists in 2007, the first year the DRA took effect. Levin found that outpatient Medicare payments to radiologists for private office imaging plummeted 18% to $2.33 billion, while they fell 10% to about $2.37 billion for cardiologists. Cardiologists' relatively soft landing, according to Levin, stemmed from their ability to make up for the difference with higher volumes. In 2007, their utilization rate for office-based imaging rose 4%, while the rate for radiologists increased 1%.
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