Imagine when you were a teenager and you mowed your lawn to earn your allowance every week. Then suddenly your parents announce that they think they've been paying you too much and will withhold a portion of your money until the overpayments have been returned. How would you feel? Would you continue to mow the lawn or go on strike? What if you can't go on strike and have to keep mowing that lawn with the reduced payments?
That is exactly the predicament facing California radiologists now. Back in 2010, California was facing an historic state budget deficit, mainly due to its own fiscal incompetence. To help balance the budget, the legislature enacted cuts to Medi-Cal payments to doctors, the state's Medicaid program. The law said that no radiology services could exceed 80% of Medicare's already measly reimbursements.
Unfortunately the Department of Health Care Services did not get around to implementing the new rule until July 20, 2015. Now the DHCS wants to claw back money from radiologists to right this oversight. It wants the radiologists to return the excess money they've been receiving since October 2012.
Normally when the government says they've overpaid you, they want the whole amount returned in one big lump payment. But since they feel for the little guy and understand that would probably bankrupt most of the radiologists in the state, the DHCS has decided that they would reimburse the doctors 20% less than what they should be receiving until the money has been returned whole to the state.
The irony is that now the state is swimming in a budget surplus. Every special interest group is hungrily eyeing that extra money for themselves. Yet they are taking back money from doctors for services fairly rendered years ago. And the radiologists have no say in this travesty. Goes to show that when you sleep with snakes, you're gonna get bit.