Getting Out of Our RUC - "An Open Letter To Primary Care Physicians"

Since 2007, we have been writing about the secretive RUC (RBRVS Update Committee), the private AMA committee that somehow has managed to get effective control over how Medicare pays physicians.  The RUC has been accused of setting up incentives that strongly favor invasive, high technology procedures while disfavoring primary care and other "cognitive medicine."  Despite the central role of (perverse) incentives in raising health care costs while limiting access and degrading quality, there has been surprisingly little discussion about the pivotal role played by the RUC. 

Now there is a movement afoot to replace the RUC.  In a new post on the Care and Cost blog, and the Replace the RUC site, Paul M. Fischer and Brian Klepper urged four approaches:

1. Make the public aware of the RUC’s role and urge the primary care societies to stop “enabling” the RUC through their participation.
2. Recruit experts who can credibly calculate the economic impacts of the RUC’s actions, and who can devise alternative payment methodologies.
3. Demonstrate the unlawfulness of CMS’ (and HCFA’s) two-decades long reliance on the RUC.
4. Develop a collaboration between primary care and non-health care business.

They are also urging three specific actions:
1. Contact your primary care society to demand that they withdraw from the RUC.
2. Broaden awareness of what we’re doing and why by rebroadcasting to your primary care colleagues.
3. Get in touch to help us with resources, relationships or approaches that can strengthen this project.

They have set up an electronic petition that people can use to urge the three major medical societies that represent primary care physicians to quit the RUC.

On Health Care Renewal, we have been trying to make the systemic problems with with the leadership of health care organizations less anechoic in the hopes that greater realization that these problems exist would lead to actions to solve them. The regulatory capture by the RUC of Medicare's payment setting mechanism is one problem that really cries out for a solution. In 2007, I called for "an unbiased re-evaluation of the components of the RBRVS by people who are dedicated to doing it fairly, not benefiting one group of physicians, or the organizations that benefit from the increased use of procedures"; and "an unbiased investigation of what went awry with the process used by Medicare to determine physician payments."  Your heard it here first on Health Care Renewal.  It is nice to now have such distinguished company. 

I urge our readers to consider the actions urged above. 

True health care reform will require a transparent, honest, fair process for governments to decide on how they will pay for physicians' care and other health care services and goods.