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November 21, 2007

Unintended Consequences of Resource-Based Relative Value Scale Reimbursement

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.

JAMA. 2007;298(19):2308-2310. doi:10.1001/jama.298.19.2308

Medicine's generalist base is disappearing as a consequence of the reimbursement system crafted to save it—the resource-based relative value scale.1 The US physician workforce is unique among developed economies of the world. Virtually all European countries have a broad generalist foundation comprising 70% to 80% of practicing physicians. The United States is the opposite. Starfield2 has summarized the benefits of a generalist workforce as access to health service for relatively deprived populations; care equal to specialists in most situations (recognizing the invaluable contribution of the specialist physicians but acknowledging that the diffusion of knowledge increases the ability of the nonspecialist to provide up-to-date care); improved preventive service delivery; efficient management of multiple simultaneous medical, surgical, and mental health problems in active and fully functional patients; provision of continuity in the health care experience, advice, and counsel where appropriate and access to appropriate diagnostic, consultative, and specialty services; and, in conjunction, reduced unnecessary specialty testing and consultation.

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