In-office magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment ownership and MRI volume among medicare patients in orthopedic practices

Health Econ Rev. 2015 Dec;5(1):31. doi: 10.1186/s13561-015-0068-0. Epub 2015 Oct 20.


Background: Concerns have been raised about physician ownership of onsite advanced imaging equipment as allowed under Stark laws by the in-office ancillary service exception (IOASE).

Methods: A web-based survey of orthopedic practices in the United States was used to assign a first date of onsite MRI capacity acquisition (if any) to specific orthopedic practices. Medicare claims data for 2006-2010 was obtained for providers in orthopedic practices acquiring onsite MRI capacity and in matched orthopedic practices without an onsite MRI over the same period of time. Multivariate regression was used to estimate the change in provider Medicare MRI volume one year before and one year after the onsite MRI acquisition year for providers in MRI practices compared to providers in propensity-score matched non-MRI practices.

Results: In all of the MRI volume change models estimated, the association between onsite MRI acquisition and the change in provider Medicare MRI volume (one-year post-onsite-MRI-acquisition less one year pre-acquisition) was consistently small and not statistically significant. This lack of association was robust to changes in model specification in terms of types of MRI exams considered, specific covariates included in the multivariate model, or the process used to confirm individual provider affiliation with study practices in study years.

Conclusions: Our analysis of Medicare claims data provides no empirical support for the proposition that acquisition of onsite MRI capacity within an orthopedic surgery practice induces an increase in the rate of MRI use for Medicare patients among practice providers, relative to physicians in practices without MRI capacity over the same time period.

Keywords: Medicare; Orthopedic practice; Physician self-referral; Transactions costs.