As Congress grapples with repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, MACRA benchmarking already underway and other rapid changes to the American healthcare system, it has never been more important for rheumatologists to make their voices heard.
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This is why it’s critical ACR members join or renew their membership in the American Medical Association (AMA) this year. To maintain representation in the AMA’s House of Delegates (HOD), the voting and policy-making arm of the organization, at least 1,000 members of the ACR must also be members of the AMA. The AMA will conduct its five-year review this year, and rheumatology is currently falling short, risking its seat at the table.
Making AMA Membership a Priority
“There couldn’t be a more important time to be involved,” says Colin Edgerton, MD, FACP, one of the ACR’s two delegates to the AMA and a South Carolina-based rheumatologist who has successfully encouraged nearly all of the 30 physicians in his practice to renew their AMA memberships or become new members. “Physicians need to take a leadership role and hold onto it, because we are best positioned to guide decisions for the benefit of patients and to maintain access to care.”
The ACR and its members do important work, Dr. Edgerton says, but “the AMA brings a much larger and better connected apparatus to bear on influencing both federal and state governments.”
He echoes ACR President Sharad Lakhanpal, MD, MBBS, who in an article published in March 2017 said, “Rheumatology is a relatively small subspecialty, but the AMA is the country’s largest and most visible physician society. Because we have the ability to help guide the AMA’s direction through seats in its House of Delegates, I like to view the AMA as providing rheumatology with a megaphone to amplify our voice at both federal and state levels.”
As Dr. Edgerton explained in an email to the physicians in his practice, through the AMA, the ACR has helped:
- Exempt small rheumatology practices from some parts of MACRA;
- Protect individualized compounding facilities in physicians’ offices from the FDA’s definition of a compounding facility;
- Block the Medicare Part B demonstration project; and
- Advance work to prohibit clinical data blocking by electronic health record vendors.
AMA as Scapegoat
From his conversations with colleagues and the commentary he observes on the ACR’s listservs, Dr. Edgerton believes the AMA has become the scapegoat for medicine’s challenges. “Generally, there are things we’re dissatisfied with in medicine, but we lack outlets to vent our displeasure, so the AMA ends up being an easy target for what’s wrong in medicine. As physicians, unfortunately, we tend to circle the wagons and shoot at each other at times.”