Uproar builds over secret doctor panel that influences Medicare

A hospital patient undergoes an imaging scan. Photo: Charles Rex Arbogast / AP

Medicare has signaled it will rubber-stamp almost every 2018 payment proposal made by the American Medical Association's clandestine panel of doctors — raising the ire of numerous advocacy groups and primary-care doctors, who believe the federal government is bending to the will of the powerful medical lobby.

The big picture: Critics believe Medicare's deference to the AMA panel creates a conflict of interest and steers federal spending toward more expensive procedures. And if the AMA panel distorts Medicare rates in favor of certain medical specialties, "that carries over into the private sector," said Frederick Isasi, executive director of the consumer group Families USA.