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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Paying the physician's fee: Blue Shield and the reasonable charge.

At a time of debate over physicians' fees and income, we describe the evolution of Blue Shield plans and programs to pay physicians' fees. We review how Medicare's "reasonable-charge" formulas fostered Blue Shield "usual, customary, and reasonable" (UCR) contracts. In a three-year period in the Washington, DC, area, Blue Shield UCR protocols permitted "customary" allowances for selected surgical procedures to rise 29 to 75 per cent; charges by two physicians increased allowances for coronary-artery bypass from $2000 to $3500. We find little justification for secrecy in fee-payment protocols. Physicians dominate the District of Columbia Blue Shield Board and its committees, and they control fee-payment formulas. Nationally, 61 per cent of Blue Shield boards have majorities of health-care providers; approximately two thirds of fee-related committees have physician majorities. We urge increased public debate, public representation, and accountability in monitoring and reforming the programs that we describe.[1]


  1. Paying the physician's fee: Blue Shield and the reasonable charge. Delbanco, T.L., Meyers, K.C., Segal, E.A. N. Engl. J. Med. (1979) [Pubmed]
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