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How the American Medical Association’s secretive panel drives up health care costs

July 16, 2015

By Vikas Saini, MD and Shannon Brownlee, MSc

A new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) shows how heavily the government relies on a select panel of American Medical Association physicians for setting the rates that physicians who treat Medicare patients are paid. The secretive group, known as the Relative Value Scale Update Committee, or RUC for short, has long operated with an astonishing lack of transparency for a private entity in the business of advising government. The RUC can be held at least partly responsible for the current shortage of primary care physicians and the high cost of American healthcare.

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More on mammograms

July 8, 2015

By Shannon Brownlee, MSc

When I turned 35, I dutifully went to my doctor to get a “baseline” mammogram. As a senior medical writer at U.S. News & World Report at the time, I knew getting a baseline was thought to provide a way for one’s doctor to look at subsequent mammograms and determine if any little white spots on the film were getting bigger and might indicate a cancer. When another medical reporter at the magazine told me there was growing concern that the radiation of mammograms themselves might cause some cancers, I was dubious. Everybody knew mammograms save lives. A tiny few additional cancers was surely offset by mammography’s life-saving power of catching cancers early.

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