Wall Street Journal Article Highlights Growing Concerns Over Urology Centers and IMRT
A December 7 Wall Street Journal article titled "A Device to Kill Cancer, Lift Revenue" highlights a growing trend by urology centers, apparently unconstrained by anti-kickback statutes, in treating prostate cancer with IMRT.
"Taking advantage of an exemption in a federal law governing patient referrals, groups of urologists across the country have teamed up with radiation oncologists to capture the lucrative reimbursements IMRT commands from Medicare," states the article by John Carreyrou and Maurice Tammon at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703904804575631222900534954.html.
The article points out that at least 37 urology groups in 16 states own IMRT equipment and employ radiation oncologists. In a Journal analysis of Medicare claims, the reporters found that IMRT usage related to prostate cancer was "significantly higher in the five states (New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Texas) where most of the urology groups that own radiation equipment are located."
Those five states accounted for 22 of the 37 self-referral groups identified by the Journal. "The average IMRT usage for recently diagnosed prostate-cancer patients was 42 percent in those states in 2008. By contrast, the national average was about a third."
In response to the article, the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) published a statement on its website that encourages radiation oncology managers and others in the profession to contact Congressional representatives on this matter.
"This article represents the most significant national exposure to the serious problem of self-referral in radiation oncology. This kind of attention is critical for helping ASTRO achieve its top legislative priority: Closing the self-referral loophole in radiation oncology. As you know, ASTRO's advocacy already has led to a congressional investigation of radiation oncology self-referral, which is mentioned in the article and will be completed in spring 2011. ASTRO also is funding a comprehensive study of radiation oncology self-referral that is due in 2011. The Wall Street Journal article provides a pillar of evidence that hopefully will lead to Congressional action closing the loophole.
"But Congress won't feel the urgency to act unless they hear from you now. Please send this article to your Members of Congress immediately. Tell them to read the article and to support legislation coming in the next Congress that will stop abusive self-referral in radiation oncology."
Visit www.astro.org to learn more about this issue.