Proposed ban on CT self-referrals stalls

Legislation that could have significantly limited the use of cone beam radiographic equipment in dental offices failed to advance on April 28 at a hearing of the Senate Business and Professions Committee.

Current state law prohibits health care providers from “self-referring” patients to themselves for diagnostic procedures such as laboratory tests and radiographs, but specifically exempts procedures ordered and performed in a provider’s own office.

SB 1215, authored by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), would have eliminated this in-office exemption for “advanced imaging.” The bill defined this to include MRI, PET and CT equipment, which could encompass cone beam radiograph systems used by dentists. Cone beam systems are compact, faster versions of regular CT imaging in which a cone-shaped X-ray beam is used.

CDA expressed its concerns with the bill, and the inclusion of cone beam imaging did not appear to be the intent of the author. The bill was introduced as a cost-containment measure based on reports about urologists and other providers allegedly overprescribing certain diagnostic procedures using their own advanced equipment in order to increase revenue.

However, strong opposition from the medical community due to concerns about inefficiencies, costs and patient inconvenience that could result from prohibiting self-referral led to the bill’s defeat in committee on a 1-3 vote.

SB 1215 is now inactive for the year.