AMA's RUC Committee to Work on Improving Transparency

New means to be used to survey physicians to better determine value of procedures

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 4, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- The 31-member Relative Value Scale Update Committee (RUC) of the American Medical Association will begin publishing minutes, dates and locations of meetings, and votes for individual current procedural codes, according to an article published Nov. 11 in Medical Economics.

Although RUC is an independent body, for the past 22 years the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has used roughly 90 to 95 percent of RUC's recommendations to inform its annual fee schedule. RUC has been criticized for overvaluing certain procedures (like colonoscopies that are valued at 75 minutes but actually take 15 minutes), which some believe has led to disparities in reimbursements between specialists and primary care physicians.

In addition to the measures aimed at increasing transparency, RUC will also reformat the way it gathers information from physicians used to set values for services. Going forward, the committee will require more surveys for the most frequently performed procedures -- at least 50 surveys for procedures performed more than 100,000 times annually and at least 75 surveys for procedures performed more than one million times annually.

"Only time will tell whether these changes lead to a fair evaluation of all physician services, particularly primary care," said Glen Stream, M.D., immediate past board chair of the American Academy of Family Physicians, according to the Medical Economics article.

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