Under new legislation, Medicare would cover radiology assistants’ services in all settings

New federal legislation would require Medicare to cover, in all healthcare settings, services provided by radiologist-led teams in which radiology assistants are participants. 

U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Penn., unveiled his Medicare Access to Radiology Care Act (MARCA) on June 1, drawing support from the imaging industry. The bill would amend the Social Security Act and align federal payment policy to match state licensure laws.

Experts emphasized that it would not reimburse RAs independently from a radiologist-led care team, nor could assistants interpret images or practice independently. Advocacy groups including the American Society of Radiologic Technologists are now urging other representatives to cosponsor the law.

Its passage would ensure reimbursement for imaging services that include an RA component, whether delivered in a hospital, ambulatory surgery center or other facility, ASRT said Monday.

“By not separating radiologist assistant reimbursement policies into different payment categories by service location, the adoption of MARCA would enable radiologists to devote more focused time to reviewing and interpreting complex medical images or urgent cases, thus increasing patients’ access to care,” the American Society of Radiologic Technologists said on its website. “RAs will be able to work more efficiently, and Medicare patients will receive care from qualified RAs regardless of the facility in which their procedure takes place.”

Such certified radiographers are rigorously trained and can safely perform certain assessments and functions (excluding interpretation) traditionally delivered by radiologists. But absent passage of House Resolution 3657, the rad assistant profession is “in peril,” with RAs losing their jobs and left unable to practice to the full extent of their training, ASRT said.

Following its introduction last week, the House has referred HR 3657 to the Energy & Commerce and Ways & Means committees for further review.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to provide further clarification on the radiology assistant's role and scope of reimbursement under the proposed rule. 

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