AMA, ACP Champion Improved Access to Maternal Health Care for Underserved

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During the Special Meeting of the AMA House of Delegates, resolutions were adopted to increase coverage for uninsured, extend public health care programs for new mothers, combat disinformation in public health

Dec. 3, 2021 (ACP) – In moves aligned with the American College of Physicians positions and policy, the American Medical Association voted to support expanding access to maternal health care for underserved and historically marginalized communities and increase coverage for the nation's nearly 29 million uninsured during the November 2021 Special Meeting of the AMA House of Delegates, held virtually.

At the meeting, the AMA passed a resolution that would support extending public health care programs to cover new moms for 12 months after the end of pregnancy. In addition to expanding access, stakeholders must acknowledge the roles that structural racism and bias play in negatively impacting maternity care, the group stated. Black women are much more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes or experience severe maternal morbidity compared with white women, according to the AMA.

Noting that ACP was encouraged by this plan, Dr. Sue S. Bornstein, chair-elect of the ACP Board of Regents, a past chair of the ACP Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, and vice-chair of the ACP AMA delegation, said that the negative impact that structural racism, bias and discrimination have on the ability to provide optimal health care is unacceptable. “The ideas in the AMA's plan reflect similar policies that ACP has adopted to address the harm that racism, disparities and discrimination cause to our patients,” she said. “We hope that all of organized medicine will be able to work together to combat this problem.”

The AMA also adopted policy to help make affordable health insurance available to many more of the close to 29 million people who remain uninsured, including those who are affected by the “coverage gap” -- those not eligible for Medicaid but also ineligible for premium tax credits because they live in states that did not expand Medicaid.

The AMA also aims to fix the Affordable Care Act (ACA) “family glitch,” which rendered some people ineligible for financial help because their employer offers “affordable” coverage, and also aims to extend eligibility to purchase insurance via the ACA marketplace to undocumented immigrants and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, with the guarantee that health plans and ACA marketplaces will not collect or report data regarding immigration status.

In efforts to address the shortage of health care professionals in rural areas, the AMA adopted a policy to encourage the development of rural tracks in training programs. “Rural areas have long been undermanned and underserved areas, and we need to improve access to appropriate service in these communities,” said Dr. William Golden, who heads the ACP AMA delegation.

Disinformation or misinformation can have devastating consequences on public health as evidenced by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the AMA vowed to help elevate physicians' voices to help dispel antivaccine myths and other falsehoods. As part of these efforts, the AMA will work with health-professional societies and key stakeholders to address any disinformation that undermines public health initiatives. ACP has undertaken similar efforts to address disinformation, recently partnering with YouTube to create educational content to counter misinformation about COVID-19 treatment and vaccines.

“It has been demonstrated that patients trust their physicians as an important resource for information about vaccines,” said ACP President Dr. George M. Abraham in his address to the AMA Internal Medicine Caucus at the meeting.

The overarching good news is that the AMA is very much aligned with ACP in thought and policy, said Golden. “ACP will continue to be part of the process and take on more leadership roles and take an active role in shaping AMA policy,” he said.

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