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Questions about the booming medical imaging business in Texas

Great piece of local health policy journalism by the Dallas Morning News. Excerpts:

“There’s a lot of money to be made in owning imaging machines,” said Dr. Richard Strax, president of the Texas Radiological Society. “You can buy a relatively inexpensive second- or third-hand MRI machine for a few hundred thousand dollars and make millions on it.”

“Today we can’t even tell you how many MRI machines are in Texas, who owns them, what condition they’re in and what quality of scans they’re turning out,” Ron Luke, health policy chairman of the Texas Association of Business, told state lawmakers this year. “That doesn’t sound like we’re very bright, does it?”

For three sessions, radiologists and doctors have fought in the Texas Legislature over the issue of self-referral. This year’s legislation, backed by radiologists and business lobbyists, would have required licensing and accreditation of imaging machines, along with a year-long state study of the extent of self-referral by physicians. But it failed.

Proponents of the legislation say opponents are driven by financial motives. Imaging has become a “lifeline” for many doctors, said Dr. Cynthia Sherry, past president of the Texas Radiological Society.

“It’s all about the money, OK? Those very doctors opposed to this are the ones participating in it,” Sherry said.

An 1,800-word story on a vital health policy topic. Wow, do we need more like this. Ten gallon hats off to the Dallas Morning News.

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