Thrall predicts healthcare reforms in 2009

May 6, 2009

Dr. James Thrall, chair of the American College of Radiology Board of Chancellors, predicted during the opening session of the college’s annual meeting Sunday that Congress will adopt healthcare reforms in 2009 and that of all the pending proposals, Medicare legislation has the greatest likelihood of passage.

Dr. James Thrall, chair of the American College of Radiology Board of Chancellors, predicted during the opening session of the college's annual meeting Sunday that Congress will adopt healthcare reforms in 2009 and that of all the pending proposals, Medicare legislation has the greatest likelihood of passage.

The ACR meeting and chapter leadership conference in Washington, DC, is closed to the media, but daily summaries of the five-day conference are appearing on the ACR website.

Speaking to the assembly, Thrall emphasized the importance of intersociety collaboration, especially for appropriateness criteria development and applications. He noted that the ACR has 15 years of experience with appropriateness criteria and is working with cardiologists and gastroenterologists to develop their own clinical best practices guidelines.

Collaborations among physician specialists also serve a political purpose, according to Thrall.

"Why are we working with cardiologists and gastroenterologists?" he asked. "We've learned that if we can harmonize our point of view with other important professional organizations and we go together to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, what can CMS say when we agree? Otherwise, CMS gets a free pass. So, whenever we can find agreement, we will continue to do so."

Turning to healthcare reform developments in Washington, Thrall assured delegates that ACR would advocate on behalf of their economic and political interests.

"We want to prevent further cuts to the technical component of imaging and will seek additional allies in addressing self-referral of medical imaging," he said.

Thrall emphasized that Medicare reimbursement for new imaging applications is improbable without persuasive clinical trials to demonstrate their effectiveness. He pointed to the American College of Radiology Imaging Network as the "only permanent clinical trial center capable of generating the data we will need."

The availability of data demonstrating the clinical effective of CT colonography led Thrall to predict that Medicare will reverse its recent decision against it and grant routine reimbursement for the screening procedure.

"We will get reimbursement for CT colonography. It may not be next month, but we will get it. And we'll get it because we've got the data," he said.

Delegates also learned during the first two days of the conference that the ACR and the American Roentgen Ray Society have finalized a previously announced strategic integration between the two societies.

As reported in February, the names, identities, and governing bodies of the two organizations will remain intact, though the ARRS will focus more on fulfilling its educational mission. Opportunities to combine some administrative operations will be exploited.

"You can look forward to seeing all of radiology in one place, all in one organization," Thrall said.

Thrall predicted the union between the two societies will lead to new tools from demonstrating evidence that will assist board-certified radiologists and radiologists in training to privileging and reimbursement issues. ACR executive director Dr. Harvey Neiman noted Sunday that the college was meeting almost daily for several weeks to ensure a smooth transition.

ACR secretary treasurer Dr. Paul Ellenbogen assured attendees that ACR ARRS membership dues would not be increased in 2009. ACR dues have not changed since 2001, he said.