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From: The Rheumatologist, October 2010

Increase Rheumatology’s Voice in the AMA

Each June, the American Medical Association’s (AMA’s) House of Delegates Annual Meeting is held in Chicago, gathering representatives from various medical state and specialty societies to discuss and develop official policies of the AMA.

At the June 2010 meeting, the AMA House of Delegates, including ACR delegate Gary Bryant, MD, and alternate delegate Eileen Moynihan, MD, discussed the recently passed healthcare reform law and how the organization should proceed to ensure that provisions are supportive of all physicians and patients. Throughout the meeting, the AMA message resonated, “what was included was a good start, especially in the area of patient protection and expansion of coverage, but work is needed going forward to fix key areas such as the Sustainable Growth Rate [SGR], electronic health records, meaningful use, and a new independent oversight panel,” says Dr. Bryant. “This all underscores that health system reform is a journey, not a destination.”

In addition to healthcare reform, the SGR remained at the forefront of the discussions. Each delegate and alternate delegate received a symbolic white coat and a Sharpie to write a message to Congress regarding the permanent repeal of the SGR. The coats were delivered later that week to U.S. Senators and Representatives from their physician constituents. During the meeting, the fate of the 21% cut and the flawed SGR formula was still in doubt. Days later, on June 24, Congress finally passed legislation that provided a 2.2% increase in reimbursement retroactive to June 1 through November 30 of this year.

RheumPAC

Ensuring the ACR is well represented in the AMA is one way to make the rheumatology community’s voice heard on Capitol Hill. Another way is through RheumPAC, the voluntary, non-partisan political action committee of the ACR.

RheumPAC representatives, including Dr. Bryant, have been busy meeting with friends of the rheumatology community to support them in their elections. For more information on RheumPAC contributions or to recommend a candidate for RheumPAC support, please visit www.rheumatology.org/advocacy, or contact Katie Jones at kjones@rheumatology.org or (404) 633-3777.

It is highly unlikely that Congress will take any action on a permanent fix prior to the November elections. However, lobbying efforts will continue through the fall to ensure physicians are not left in limbo. The ACR and the AMA are actively engaged in these lobbying efforts and will continue to mobilize the grassroots through November.

Rheumatology representation at the AMA House of Delegates, although small, is critical to ensure that our voices are heard and policy decisions are made to benefit and protect our specialty. The ACR will maintain its delegate and alternate delegate as long as ACR members continue their membership in the AMA. In addition to representation in the AMA House of Delegates, the ACR has representation on the CPT Editorial Committee and the Relative Value Update Committee. Both are critical in establishing payment policies for all specialties.

Rheumatology is also represented through state medical societies. Although the ACR has appointed delegates who represent the ACR at meetings, every member can help strengthen the voice of rheumatology in the AMA by getting involved in his or her state medical society. State medical societies have a strong presence in the AMA House of Delegates, and your active involvement within your state medical organization will increase visibility of rheumatology in the overall physician community.

What can you do to ensure ACR is well represented in the AMA?

  • Renew your AMA Membership at www.ama-assn.org.
  • Become active in your state medical society.

To learn more about the AMA House of Delegates or how to get involved with your state medical society, contact ACR government affairs staff at advocacy@rheumatology.org or (404) 633-3777.

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