Tag Archives: Brian Klepper

The RUC’s Defense

Brian Klepper

On Wednesday, 47 American medical specialty societies sent Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) a letter, with copies to all members of Congress, containing a detailed defense of the American Medical Association’s (AMA’s) Relative Value Scale Update Committee (RUC). For 20 years, the RUC has exclusively advised the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on physician procedure valuation and reimbursement. On its face, the letter responds to a seemingly minor piece of legislation introduced by Rep. McDermott, H.R. 1256the Medicare Physician Payment Transparency and Assessment Act, that would require CMS to use processes outside the RUC to verify the RUC’s recommendations on medical services values.

Conspicuously absent from the letter’s signatures were the nation’s three main primary care societies: the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) – which has formally endorsed Mr. McDermott’s bill – the American College of Physicians (ACP) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Last week, the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians sent a letter to its parent organization, AAFP, “strongly encouraging” it to quit the RUC. It is as though the long-compromised primary care physician community, that makes up one third of American physicians and handles half of our office visits, is suddenly mobilizing.

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A Growing Chorus on the RUC

Brian Klepper

Yesterday on Kaiser Health News, Barbara Levy MD, the Chair of the AMA’s Relative Value Scale Update Committee (or RUC), published a glowing defense of the RUC’s activities. Her article extols the work of the 29 physician volunteers who, “at no cost to taxpayers…generously volunteer their time,” “supported by advisers and staff from more than 100 national medical specialty societies and health care professional organizations.” She fails to mention that the physicians’ and organizations’ efforts to craft the RUC’s recommendations have direct financial benefit to the physicians, specialty societies and health care professional organizations whose representatives dominate the RUC proceedings.

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An Open Letter To Primary Care Physicians

Paul M. Fischer and Brian Klepper

If you agree with this letter, please redistribute, particularly to other primary care physicians.

Friends:

As many of you know, we have developed an effort to shine a bright light on the Relative Value Scale Update Committee, or RUC. This site provides a wealth of expert background information, and we’re working now to get more visibility on this issue.

A specialist-dominated panel within the AMA, the RUC is little known and under-appreciated, but extremely powerful and opaque. More important, through its longstanding relationship with CMS, it is central to the explosion in health care costs over the past 20 years, why primary care physicians are paid so poorly compared to their specialist colleagues and why few medical students now choose to enter primary care as a career. Meaningfully address the RUC, and you relieve America of more health system waste than all the cost control measures in the health care reform law combined.

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Fixing America’s Health Care Reimbursement System

Brian Klepper

First published 3/3/11 on Kaiser Health News

A tempest is brewing in physician circles over how doctors are paid. But calming it will require more than just the action of physicians. It will demand the attention and influence of businesses and patient advocates who, outside the health industrial complex, bear the brunt of the nation’s skyrocketing health care costs.

Much responsibility for America’s inequitable health care payment system and its cost crisis is embedded in the informal but symbiotic relationship between the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the American Medical Association’s Relative Value System Update Committee — also known as the RUC. For two decades, the RUC, a specialist-dominated panel, has encouraged national health care reimbursement policy that financially undervalues the challenges associated with primary care’s management of complicated patients, while favoring often unnecessarily complex, costly and excessive medical services. For its part, CMS has provided mostly rubber-stamp acceptance of the RUC’s recommendations. If America’s primary care societies noisily left the RUC, they would de-legitimize the panel’s role in driving the American health system’s immense waste and pave the way for a more fair and enlightened approach to reimbursement.

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Hitting A Nerve

Earlier this week, a comment arrived on a new site I developed to promote ending CMS’ cozy relationship with the RVS Update Committee (RUC). The RUC is the AMA’s specialist-dominated panel that has distorted the value of health care services, been most responsible for strangling primary care and driven the health care cost explosion.

It was from a  physician responding to the article “Replace the RUC,” which tried to place the rationale and approach for this effort within a larger context. It urged primary care physicians to read up on the RUC’s background, and then demand that their societies publicly abandon it. He said:

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

This is exactly what many of us felt the AAFP should have done 15 years ago. The willingness of the primary care societies to continue to participate in the AMA’s intentional destruction of primary care must be some strange variant of the Stockholm syndrome!

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