Hundreds of people have signed an online petition trying to halt the state from hiking the licensing fees that medical imaging technicians pay the Oregon Board of Medical Imaging.
The online petition criticizes the state agency for lack of communication and says nearly doubling the fees is a “large demand to put on all registrants” with no guarantees about how it will benefit a person with a license or if more license fee increases are in store.
Christy Leavitt-Blackwell, a Portland ultrasonographer, started the petition. As of Monday afternoon, the petition had nearly 1,600 signatures.
“The fees OBMI has presented beginning in 2021 do not appear to be justified, especially such a substantial rise,” the petition states. “I am concerned, along with my many other colleagues in the field of imaging, that fees will continue to rise with inadequate justification.”
But the fee increases are nonetheless slated to take effect Jan. 1.
The Oregon Board of Medical Imaging issues licenses and permits to more than 6,000 medical imaging technologists and radiation therapists statewide. The agency investigates complaints and conducts background checks on license applicants.
The board approved the fee increases in April. Starting Jan. 1, the cost will rise to $220 for a two-year license, from $124. Both those figures include a $4 survey fee that goes to the Oregon Health Authority, not the board. The increase totals $96 for two years, or $4 a month.
The cost also goes up for the six-month temporary license and permit fees, which technicians pay while they are training in health care facilities. The cost for a six-month permit will increase to $54 from $30. That’s a $4 a month increase.
The fee hikes are the first in about a decade at the agency, said Stacy Katler, executive director of the board.
Katler, who became the executive director in 2019, said that in hindsight it would have been better to impose a smaller fee increase several years ago followed by another small increase this year.
The board made the decision to absorb inflationary increases the agency has seen in the last 10 years, Katler said. The new fee increases are intended to shore up the agency’s budget for the next six years, according to the agency. The increase will also go toward the costs of a new database.
The Portland-based board’s 2019-2021 budget projected it would receive about $890,000 in revenues for the biennium, mainly from license fees and other revenue, such as fines. The agency has a staff of 3.5 employees and also pays to share administrative, information technology and accounting services with other state agencies. In the board’s 2020 performance report, it said it processes 96% of all applications within five days, provided they have all the required documentation.
“We felt really badly about trying to impose the hardship during the pandemic,” Katler said in an interview with The Lund Report.
Due to the pandemic, Katler said the board has delayed the start of the fee increases by six months. The original plan was for the fee increase to kick in on July 1.
Katler said the process has been transparent and followed all requirements, with public notices, public hearings and emails to stakeholder groups, such as professional organizations.
“It was not the intention of the OBMI to cause stress or hardship for anyone,” Katler said in a Dec. 8 letter about the increases. “The simple fact is that because OBMI has been absorbing the increased costs of inflation and rising business expenses for the last 10 years and our budget position is not sustainable. It is for that reason that fees need to be increased; unfortunately, this happened at a very bad time.”
Katler said the petition will be presented to the board at its Jan. 22 meeting, three weeks after the increase takes effect.
Leavitt-Blackwell could not be reached for comment by The Lund Report.
The petition states that she already pays fees to another governing body, the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography, that manages credential verification and continuing education and it’s “difficult to justify paying such an increase to a now second governing body with no assurance fees won't continue to rise.”
You can reach Ben Botkin at [email protected] or via Twitter @BenBotkin1.