CARE bill gets U.S. House hearing

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | June 04, 2012
A bill that would require federal minimum standards for radiologic technologists and radiation therapy assistants involved in Medicare will receive a hearing on Capitol Hill this Friday.

At 10:00 a.m. on June 8, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee will tackle H.R. 2104, the Consistency, Accuracy, Responsibility and Excellence in Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy bill, also known as the CARE bill.

For more than 12 years, the American Society of Radiologic Technologists has been lobbying Congress to pass a bill that would implement national certification standards for operators of X-ray, MRI, nuclear medicine and radiation therapy equipment. Currently, the need for certification is handled at the state level, typically through licensing requirements, which not all states have.

The original CARE bill was introduced in the House in September 2000 by former New York congressman Rick Lazio. The most recent version of the CARE bill was introduced last summer by Rep. Ed Whitfield, a Republican from Kentucky, and Rep. John Barrow, a Georgian Democrat. So far, it has racked up 123 cosponsors, ASRT said.

A Senate version of the bill (which has also yet to pass) first appeared in 2003. However, Sens. Mike Enzi, a Wyoming Republican, and Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, are expected to reintroduce the bill in the upper chamber in the next few weeks, the ASRT told DOTmed News by e-mail.

The bill has the backing of a host of medical associations, including radiologic technologist, radiologist and medical physicist groups, as well as the American Cancer Society, the International Society of Radiographers and Radiological Technologists and the American Organization of Nurse Executives, according to the ASRT's website. Device manufacturer Philips Medical Systems also supports the bill, according to the ASRT.

Although a significant milestone in the decade-long quest to pass the bill, this week's hearing won’t be the legislation’s first. On July 16, 2006, former ASRT CEO Lynn May testified at an earlier hearing called by the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee, ASRT said. The ASRT has also brought up the CARE bill in congressional testimonies on medical errors in 2002 and radiation therapy errors in 2010.

At the hearing, titled "Examining the Appropriateness of Standards for Medical Imaging Technologists," the congressional committee will hear testimony from the ASRT, the American Society for Radiation Oncology and the Society of Nuclear Medicine, the ASRT said. A complete list of witnesses should be available before the hearing starts at the end of the week.

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