Bill would change how Medicare sets doc fees

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A memo from McDermott's office alleged that the RUC is "unevenly weighted by procedural specialists over primary-care doctors and relies heavily on anecdotal and self-serving survey evidence."

The result, the memo argues, is an erosion of primary-care reimbursements in fair of payments to procedural medicine such as pathology, surgery and imaging.

"Medicare certainly needs clinical expertise in order to fairly set reimbursements, but an outside organization, whose members benefit from $70 billion in annual public spending, needs checks and balances," said McDermott in a statement.

The AMA says Medicare pay discrepancies between primary-care doctors and specialists are not the RUC's fault, and that any attempt to disempower the panel will hurt needed specialists.

Under McDermott's bill, a new panel of independent experts would review all work produced by the RUC. The new panel would hold open meetings, publish minutes and include patient representatives.

The committee's purpose would be to "identify distortions" in the current Medicare fee schedule, according to a summary of the bill.