RSNA13: Radiologists often not paid for ED services

More than one-fourth of emergency radiological services went completely uncompensated over a four-year period, according to research presented Monday at the Radiological Society of North America's annual conference in Chicago.

For the study, researchers led by Richard Duszak (pictured), chief medical officer of the Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute of the American College of Radiology, examined patient- and physician-redacted billing claims for 2,935 radiologists across 40 states from January 2009 through December 2012. Duszak, who also serves as on FierceHealthIT's Editorial Advisory Board, and colleagues found that, not only did more than 96 percent of the radiologists provide uncompensated care to ED patients, but that radiologists received no compensation at all for services to such patients more than 28 percent of the time.

The researchers also noted that the "frequency and magnitude" of uncompensated care likely was underestimated.

"Given the 'safety net' role of EDs for uninsured patients, uncompensated services are increasingly a challenge to all specialists and appear to be a particularly common problem for radiologists," Duszak said, according to the RSNA Daily Bulletin. He added that the aim of the research is to help boost awareness of the problem for healthcare policy makers, which in turn could help to assure that it won't become so widespread as to decrease the access of ED patients to necessary radiological services.

Of all uncompensated services provided to patients, more than 52 percent were rendered to uninsured patients, according to Duszak and his colleagues.

U.S. hospitals provided $41.1 billion in uncompensated care in 2011, according to a survey published in January by American Hospital Association. For the survey, AHA looked at more than 4,900 hospitals and found that uncompensated care costs represented 5.9 percent of their total expenses in 2011. The AHA survey did not distinguish between charity care and bad debt when calculating uncompensated care costs.

To learn more:
- here's the study's abstract
- check out the RSNA Bulletin brief

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