Florida imaging cap could face modification

June 9, 2003

A controversial price cap imposed on imaging procedures by theFlorida state legislature could be modified or even abolishedwhen the legislature reconvenes in a special session this month. The cap was a last-minute amendment to a bill banning

A controversial price cap imposed on imaging procedures by theFlorida state legislature could be modified or even abolishedwhen the legislature reconvenes in a special session this month.

The cap was a last-minute amendment to a bill banning health-careproviders from referring to medical centers in which they havean investment interest (SCAN 4/8/92).

The cap limits imaging centers, clinical labs, physical therapyfacilities, rehabilitative services and radiation therapy servicesfrom charging 15% more than the Medicare fee schedule for proceduresthey perform. The bill (SB 2264) was signed by Gov. Lawton Chilesand became law April 8.

But setting cost caps was never the intention of the legislature,according to an aide to Rep. Charles Roberts, (D-Titusville),sponsor of the legislation.

"We started out to do a joint-venture bill, but rate settingwas introduced," said David T. Teek, a legislative assistantto Roberts. "It's a real Pandora's box that isn't going togo away."

The cap was part of a compromise that increased the divestitureperiod for physicians from two years to three years. The cap isproving to be counterproductive because it makes it harder forphysicians to divest ownership of centers, Teek said.

"The folks who own (centers) are not finding a lot ofpeople who want to come in and buy them out if they're going tobe subject to a rate cap," Teek told SCAN.

The forum for a renewed battle over the cap will be a specialsession of the legislature, set to convene June 1. Although thesession was called to deal with the state's ongoing budget impasse,Teek believes a bill to at least modify the cap will be introduced.

One possibility is that the rate cap be changed to apply onlyto facilities owned by self-referring physicians. That shouldencourage divestiture, Teek said.

"The rate cap kind of dropped in on the last day of session.It really didn't get any policy reviews," Teek said. "Ithink it stands a good chance of being modified."