A new Kentucky law would effectively bar radiologists from reviewing X-rays involved in state black lung compensation claims. The new law requires that only physicians who are licensed in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and are board-certified pulmonary specialists assess diagnostic black lung X-rays when state black lung claims are filed.
Physicians who read chest X-rays for work-related diseases like black lung are known as "B readers." They are certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for both federal and state compensation claims. B readers do not specifically have to be pulmonologists or radiologists, though they can be both.
News reports out of Kentucky have questioned the medical necessity and ethics behind the new law.
American College of Radiology (ACR) Chief Executive Officer William T. Thorwarth, MD, FACR, called the new law inappropriate and asked that the law be re-addressed legislatively.
“The American College of Radiology is disappointed that, in this case, a state legislature has stepped in to become determinants of qualifications and scope of practice. This is particularly troubling given that there is a national organization that qualifies physicians - without limitation by specialty - as the B reader program does. To have that established process superseded by legislators and a political process is inappropriate. All patients, including coal miners, deserve high quality care by well trained and qualified physicians. This is a matter of life and death for many people. Politics should be left out of it. We hope that the Kentucky legislature will rescind this new law and work with medical providers to save more lives,” said Thorwarth.
The ACR government relations team will continue to monitor and address this situation. ACR members will be made aware of any developments in the coming months.