House committee passes 'physician self-referral' ban

March 19, 1992|By David Conn | David Conn,Annapolis Bureau

ANNAPOLIS -- Doctors would be prohibited from referring patients to clinics or laboratories in which the physician has an interest under a bill passed by a House committee yesterday.

"If this bill flies, this is going to be one that the rest of the country follows. I really believe that," said Kent County Del. Ronald A. Guns, the chairman of the Environmental Matters Committee that passed House Bill 1374 yesterday.

The bill would prohibit health-care practitioners from referring patients to outside facilities in which the practitioners, or family members, have a financial interest.

One group decidedly unhappy about the outcome is a Georgia radiology company that, according to both supporters and opponents, became a primary target of the bill.

"I think it's absolutely outrageous," said Dennis McCoy, lobbyist for Atlanta-based Radiation Care Inc., which operates a College Park radiology clinic and is building another in Rockville.

"They're putting a company out of business and they're putting people out of a job," Mr. McCoy said after the committee vote.

Officials from Radiation Care, or RCI, said they are the main reason the state physicians' society reversed its long-standing opposition to the "physician self-referral" bill.

RCI typically finds a group of local physicians to invest in a radiology facility and ultimately buys them out with RCI stock. Local physicians and lawmakers are concerned that the arrival of RCI will increase health-care costs as new radiology clinics pop up with a captive audience of "self-referred patients."

The Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland, the state's physicians' association, denied their support for the bill is because of RCI. They pointed to a new policy against self-referrals from the American Medical Association.

But Mr. McCoy questioned Med-Chi's true motivations in light of some of the exemptions the group agreed to put in the bill, including ophthalmology practices and clinics owned by hospitals.

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