A Letter From America’s Medical Specialty Societies To Rep. McDermott (D-WA)

Brian’s Note: This letter, signed by 47 medical specialty societies, was sent Wednesday to Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), in response to his remarks before the House Ways & Means Committee, and to legislation he recently introduced, H.R. 1256, the Medicare Physician Payment Transparency and Assessment Act, that would require the Relative Value Scale Update Committee’s (RUC’s) recommendations to be validated using means that are external to the RUC.

This letter, representing virtually the entire medical specialty community, is a remarkable display of mobilized discipline and influence over a seemingly minor bill. Note that the arguments in it echo those made last week by Barbara Levy, MD, the RUC’s Chair, in an article published on Kaiser Health News (which I responded to here). It is also similar to a letter – see here – sent Tuesday by AMA CEO Michael Maves.

More on this shortly.


April 6, 2011

 

The Honorable Jim McDermott

U.S. House of Representatives

1035 Longworth House Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20515

 

Dear Rep. McDermott:

On behalf of our physician members who care for the full range of patient needs, the undersigned organizations write to respond to comments made during the March 15, 2011 hearing before the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health to discuss the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) March 2011 Report to the Congress: Medicare Payment Policy and to share concerns regarding the “Medicare Physician Payment Transparency and Assessment Act”, recently introduced by Representative Jim McDermott. Specifically, we want to address the apparent misconceptions about the composition and role of the American Medical Association’s Relative Value Update Committee (RUC).

The RUC is a multispecialty physician expert panel convened by the AMA with the support and cooperation of the physician and health care practitioner specialty societies who petition the government to provide a fair and equitable system of reimbursement for physician services. In addition to annual updates reflecting changes in Current Procedural Terminology (CPT), Section 1848(C)2(B) of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990 requires the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to comprehensively review all relative values at least every five years and make any needed adjustments. The success of the RUC’s role in the annual updates led CMS to seek assistance from the RUC for each of the three Five-Year-Review processes. CMS participates in every RUC meeting. After each review is completed, the Secretary of Health and Human Services and CMS review the RUC’s recommendations and will then accept, modify, or reject any of the recommendations.

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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.

Continue reading “A Growing Chorus On The RUC”