Whether the legal team of the AAPS will decide to amend the complaint remains to be seen, but much has been learned about the anti-competitive nature of the ABMS Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program since the time that suit was filed. No longer is the coordination of effort of the MOC program limited to an arrangement between the Joint Commission of Accreditation of Hospital Organizations and the ABMS member boards, but its tentacles extend to most of the membership organizations of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), the huge medical publishing companies (Wolter Kluwer and Reed Elsevier), many of the state medical societies like the Massachusetts Medical Society and their NEJM Group, the IPC Hospitalist Company (later purchased by TeamHealth, that was later bought by the mysterious Blackstone Group after the DOJ found them guilty of Medicare fraud), the international medical community in far-away places like Qatar and Venice, Italy (which have separate "standards" for Board certification), and even influence on our own local state legislatures.
This is because we now understand that nearly 20% of our nation's economy (and much of our current academic medical system, each with their lucrative medical subspecialty societies) depends on ABMS MOC program succeeding. MOC is one of the critical keys to unlocking the data mine of physician behavior, purchasing, and influence via a HIPAA Business Associate Agreement that supplies the digital data fuel for the economic engine of health care today. An alternative to MOC without such an agreement would hurt this digital gravy train.
But working physicians subject to the demands of MOC saw the program for what it was: a sickening power play using threats and intimidation to fund the ACGME monopoly and the ABMS Member Board largess at their expense.
So those same working physicians took it upon themselves to start their own competing board, the National Board of Physicians and Surgeons. They took their concerns to state legislators and won a few key battles. By doing so, they exposed how insurance companies and hospital systems didn't really like that competition. They especially didn't like how physicians were coordinating their efforts. And somehow, along the way, those efforts have now piqued the interest of a few lawyers from the Federal Trade Commission.
But the inner political workings of our court system need scrutiny, too.
Recall that the 2013 AAPS suit was moved from New Jersey to the Northern District of Illinois (the AMA's back yard) in 2014 at request of lawyers from the AMA. Once there, the case docket had plenty of activity until January 2015, but then laid dormant for years.
This did not stop the ABMS from declaring victory in the case on their website October 2, 2017. How did they know? More than two months before the Memorandum Opinion was issued by Judge Andrea R. Wood, it seems the ABMS knew something the AAPS lawyers did not. The court docket also revealed how the court dismissed the case before the Memorandum Opinion could be reviewed by AAPS attorneys. Perhaps this is usual and customary behavior by the courts, but given the gravity of the ruling and its implications to working physicians nationwide, working doctors want to know how the ABMS leadership knew of the case's outcome before the ruling was even issued. Do the tentacles of MOC extend to the courts, too?
While the ruling is disappointing to most working US physicians, all is not lost. Not by a long shot.
Thanks to the work of a committed group of working physicians who have raised the interest of federal regulators, MOC suddenly appears "problematic" for the ACGME. A new "Vision Commission" for "Continuous Board Certification" is being organized by the ABMS comprised of the same cohort of conflicted medical bureaucrats that created MOC in the first place.
Look at that "planning group's" membership:
- Jo Buyske (adademic surgeon) who served on the Board of Directors at ABMS
- Sandra Carson (academic Gynecologist, Vice President of the ACOG, and Secretary of the Board of Directors of CMSS)
- Joyce Dubow (a thinly veiled National Quality Forum "public member")
- Larry Green (former American Board of Family Medicine Chair)
- Thomas W. Hess, Legal Partner Dinsmore Shohl of Columbus Ohio and ABMS Board Member
- Lynn Kirk (academic internist)
- Graham McMahon (academic endocrinologist and President and Chair, ACCME)
- Thomas Nasca (academic nephrologist and bureaucrat of the NHPF)
- John Prescott (academic Emergency Medicine and bureaucrat at the AAMC)
- Stephen Wasserman (academic allergist, and President of the American Board of Allergy and Immunology)
- Steven Weinberger (academic pulmonologist and former CEO and Executive Vice President of the American College of Physicians)
- Lois Margarent Nora (ex officio President and CEO of the ABMS)
Lipstick on a pig by another name is still a pig. And no matter what this commission has planned as they delay and distract from the corruption that has occurred with MOC for the past 30 years when they issue their "findings" in 2019, MOC will remain a corrupt, broken educational product with serious conflicts of interest that needs to end now, not later.