The American Academy of Family Physicians this week declined to drop out of a little-known committee that wields powerful influence over Medicare payment to doctors, despite pressure from some of its members to leave the group.
Late last month, Dr. Roland Goertz, the president of the academy, said its board planned to discuss giving up membership in the American Medical Association/Specialty Society Relative Value Update Committee, or RUC, a committee the family physicians’ group has long criticized for under-valuing the work of family doctors. Goertz said then the RUC issue could be decided in a board vote.
In an interview Friday, however, Goertz said the board met this week and was unable to reach a decision about its participation in the RUC. He said the issue is still on the table, but was unsure of the timetable for resolving it.
“AAFP's continued participation in the RUC is a serious decision that cannot be made lightly,” Goertz said. “We want to make sure we have investigated every conceivable impact on family medicine and primary care physicians and the patients we serve.”
The RUC is a group of 29 physicians nominated by medical specialty societies that advises the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on the relative values of medical procedures. Technically, the group simply recommends procedure values, but CMS accepts the RUC’s recommendations more than 90 percent of the time, which has led to criticism that the arrangement is a conflict of interest allowing physicians a key role in determining what Medicare pays them. The workings of the RUC and the controversy over its practices were detailed in a Center for Public Integrity piece last November.
Pay is at root of the conflict between family physicians and the RUC.