Saturday’s Washington Post runs a long story – breathlessly labeled “Exclusive” – about the Relative Value Update Committee, an AMA venture that effectively sets the prices Medicare pays for medical procedures. The committee meets in secret and consists entirely of people who represent those with direct financial stake in the outcomes. (Not, of course, including patients or taxpayers.) Fox, met henhouse.
Astoundingly, the Federal Advisory Committee Act, designed precisely to prevent this sort of abuse, doesn’t apply, because – even though the results of the committee’s deliberations are almost always accepted by CMMS, the group isn’t technically an “advisory committee.” That’s because it it’s run by the AMA rather than by the agency. Given how thoroughly FACA screws up the process of getting outside information to federal decision-makers, to find that it doesn’t apply in the case where it most needs to apply is pretty scandalous.
And, while we’re on the topic of scandalous behavior, take a look at the story on precisely the same topic by Haley Sweetland Edwards in the current Washington Monthly, which showed up on line about three days ago.
No doubt it came as considerable shock to Peter Whoriskey and Dan Keating of the Post, and to their editors, to find that they’d been beaten like a drum by a little outfit that isn’t even subsidized by a test-prep company.
But they handled the situation with all the grace and style you’d expect of the newspaper that still runs Richard Cohen: they simply ignored it. No doubt most of their dead-tree readers will never know that they they “Exclusive” they’re reading is stale news.
There’s no issue of plagiarism here; the WaPo story must have been in the can for days before the WaMo story appeared. But surely both the reporters and the editors must have known that the the Edwards story had priority, unless the Post has become even more ingrown than it usually appears to be.
Would it really have killed them to give her, and the publication she writes for, some credit?
Update Actually, it’s worse than that.