AMA committee offers recommendations, rather than sets policy

July 26, 2013

The Post did a disservice to readers with its front-page report on an American Medical Association committee’s role in providing cost information to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) [“Medical panel uses data that distort doctors’ pay,” July 21].

In recent years, this committee has taken the initiative to identify overvalued medical services to help drive cost reduction. To date, it has reviewed about 1,300 potentially misvalued services and recommended reductions to 500 previously overvalued services, redistributing $2.5 billion to primary care and other services.

But let’s not forget that the Medicare physician payment system is ultimately budget-neutral. There is no financial impact if the government accepts a recommendation for increasing a medical service value because any increase is automatically offset by decreasing values assigned to all other services. It also should be noted that the growth in Medicare physician services has been at a historical low for each of the past three years — less than 1 percent.

We ensured transparency of the process, making the data and rationale for each committee recommendation publicly available, and CMS representatives attend all Relative Value Update Committee meetings. The committee submits recommendations to CMS for consideration each year, but the agency is not obligated to accept them. The general public is also able to comment on individual procedures, and processes are in place to ensure that input from all stakeholders is considered by CMS.

Ardis Dee Hoven, Chicago

The writer is president of the American Medical Association.

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