The CARE Bill: What It Might Mean for Ultrasound Technicians

By Aimee Hosler,

With the exception of those living in New Mexico and Oregon, ultrasound technicians have been sheltered from state or federal certification requirements — that is, until now. In August, 2010, Senators Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming) and Tom Harking (D-Iowa) introduced the CARE Bill to the US Senate. CARE is a short and sweet acronym for Consistency, Accuracy, Responsibility, and Excellence in Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy. Its goal: to regulate education and certification requirements for medical imaging professionals across the board.

Here's an in-depth look at how this legislation affects current and future ultrasound technicians, and just why they should care about CARE.

Why Should Ultrasound Techs Care About CARE?

CARE amends the existing Consumer-Patient Radiation Health & Safety Act of 1981, which regulates education and licensure requirements for radiology professionals. The most notable change for ultrasound technicians is that this legislation applies to them at all — they were exempt from previous legislation, bypassing state licensure altogether (with rare exception). CARE now expands these requirements to ultrasound techs at the request of professional sonography organizations.

How Does CARE Really Impact Ultrasound Technicians?

The CARE Bill regulates ultrasound technician requirements with respect to training and certification. Previously, only New Mexico and Oregon regulated ultrasound technician training. CARE changes all that, requiring ultrasound techs to obtain professional certification through the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, or the Competency & Credentialing Institute.

Professional ultrasound technician certification typically requires professionals do the following:

  • Meet minimum ultrasound technician training or work requirements
  • Pass an extensive exam
  • Maintain licensure through continuing education
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that in most cases, ultrasound techs must be certified in each of their specialties.

    When Do These Ultrasound Technician Requirements Kick In?

    It is unclear if and when CARE will pass the US Congress, though experts say it's only a matter of time. Senitors Enzi and Harkin promise medical imaging professionals will be given adequate time to comply with these new requirements, and it should include a grandfathering process for current ultrasound techs who do not meet requirements, applying work experience toward certification.

    Does CARE Require Ultrasound Technicians to Get a Federal License?

    CARE does not require ultrasound technicians to be licensed federally. It does, however, require they either be licensed by their state if such licensure exists, or to meet minimum federal requirements. Not meeting these requirements means that Medicaid would no longer reimburse ultrasound technicians (or their employers) for their services.

    Does CARE Compliance Improve Ultrasound Technician Salary?

    According to the American Society of Radiologic Technologists, studies show that broad certification requirements do not lead to improved salaries. This is particularly bad news for ultrasound technicians who used to have a competitive edge in the job market thanks to professional certifications. If ultrasound technicians are certified across the board, it is no longer a distinguishing achievement.

    Experts say it is only a matter of time before CARE is enacted into law. Even if it fails to pass, states are considering taking New Mexico's and Oregon's lead and mandating licensure. Ultrasound technicians may want to take efforts to secure their future by investing now in ultrasound technician training and professional certification.