The Federal Trade Commission has granted an Academy petition to set aside a 1976 consent decree order prohibiting the Academy from inititating, publishing or circulating "relative value scales" for medical or surgical services.
The action on May 5 opens the way for the Academy to distribute the Abt Associates study of physician work values for orthopaedic surgery to third-party payers, other medical societies, and Academy fellows.
The Academy has already sent the study to the Health Care Financing Administration so that it could consider it for the Medicare resource-based relative value scale (RBRVS). The study also was sent to all state Medicaid and workers compensation agencies using the RBRVS payment system.
The FTC originally alleged that the preparation and circulation by the Academy of comparative numerical values for services performed by orthopaedic surgeons had the effect of establishing or maintaining a minimum fee schedule for orthopaedic surgeons. The Academy argued that since Congress established the RBRVS Medicare payment system, HCFA and other entities have sought information from medical societies on physician work, which is the subject of the Abt Study. The Academy further argued that the Abt Study, if adopted by payers using the Medicare RBRVS, would make the relative values assigned to orthopaedic procedures more reasonable in relation to one another.
With the consent order rescinded, the Academy will send the Abt Study to all state and national orthopaedic societies and make the study available to fellows and to interested third parties. Fellows can obtain copies of the Abt Study for $20 by faxing a request to the Academy's customer service department (800) 823-8025 or by calling (800) 626-6726.