Earlier this summer, the AMA House of Delegates convened in Chicago for its annual meeting, at which issues are deliberated and AMA policy is set. The ACR sent 2 delegates representing the 1,250 AMA rheumatology members. This year, Robert Wah, MD, a reproductive endocrinology/obstetrics and gynecology specialist, became president. He has a strong background in GME as well as HIT, and especially in driving improvement in the use of the electronic medical record. He is the first Chinese American to serve as president of the AMA.
Ardis Dee Hoven, MD, the outgoing president, highlighted AMA’s advocacy efforts in the fight to repeal the Medicare sustainable growth rate formula, while offering ways to continue the fight. The ongoing SGR effort has united physicians throughout the House of Medicine and produced a bicameral, bipartisan legislative policy to replace the SGR with a system that encourages innovation.
There were many venues at the meeting to discuss/dissect the outcome of the SGR repeal effort over the past year, as well as the specifics of Congressional action in March. During public question and answer opportunities, I specifically challenged AMA’s government affairs leaders to clearly lay out the AMA’s plan for the coming year, as well as the AMA’s commitment to continuing the efforts to assist physicians regarding the delayed move to ICD-10. We will be watching the actions and priorities closely.
The ACR’s delegates used valuable ACR committee input in their votes and comments to the House of Delegates. Two ACR-drafted resolutions were submitted for this meeting:
- Resolution 226, relating to the release of physician Medicare claims data—This asked that AMA advocate for changes to CMS’s policy 1) allowing for physician review of the physician claims data prior to release in order to allow corrections of systematic problems and assistance with detailed data, and 2) establishing a feedback mechanism and process for correcting errors and making changes in the data; and that the AMA prepare data and other information to assist the media and lawmakers with appropriate interpretation; and
- Resolution 208, which calls upon the AMA to take legislative or regulatory action to achieve easing of travel restrictions for federally employed scientists attending academic or scientific conferences that are consistent with current HHS policies and procedures.
Despite the ACR’s relatively smaller size as a physician society, we continue to have an important voice at the House of Delegates through our resolutions, floor action and service on councils. The ACR’s delegation continues to be active in the Specialty and Service Society, the Pain and Palliative Medicine Specialty Section Council and the ACP caucus. This year, I was also elected secretary of the SSS and remain on the Governing Council.
House of Delegates at Work
The AMA House of Delegates continued with a wide agenda. The Delegates:
- Passed a resolution strengthening its policy regarding advocacy to assure end-to-end testing of ICD-10 by CMS and a hold harmless implementation period after go-live;
- Adopted the Council on Science and Public Health Report 4—Biosimilar Product Approval and Marketing. The changes in policy strengthen support for patient access and physician autonomy, while monitoring FDA actions regarding naming conventions, approval process and post-marketing surveillance;
- Approved the Council on Medical Education Report 6, but modified it to clearly state that the AMA opposes mandatory maintenance of certification as a condition of medical licensure;
- Voted to ask President Barack Obama to provide timely access to entitled care for eligible veterans via the healthcare sector outside of the Veterans Affairs healthcare system until the VA can provide healthcare in a timely fashion;
- Approved a set of principles to ensure the appropriate coverage of and payment for telemedicine services while ensuring patient safety, quality of care and privacy;
- Adopted a policy that directs the AMA to advocate for suspension of the ePrescribing requirements in the electronic health record (EHR) until all pharmacies are able to comply with this requirement; and
- Adopted a policy addressing “data lock-in,” in which information stored in one EHR system cannot be easily transferred to another system.
The ACR’s activity and impact at the AMA House of Delegates is only possible because of ACR members who are also members of the AMA. It’s important that rheumatologists continue to join and renew their AMA memberships to allow this work to continue and to keep the ACR part of the AMA federation. It is a critical piece of our overall advocacy strategy, and we thank you for your help.