During June meeting, AMA House of Delegates presented recovery plan and adopted resolutions on reproductive health services, ‘ghost guns,’ medical disinformation
Sept. 9, 2022 (ACP) — During its first in-person meeting since the emergence of COVID-19, the American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates rolled out a recovery plan for physicians who are still struggling to keep their practices open as the pandemic wages on.
The AMA Recovery Plan for America's Physicians aims to rein in onerous prior authorization, reform Medicare pay so it promotes value and innovation, fight scope creep by nonphysician health professionals, support telehealth and reduce physician burnout and stigma around physician mental health.
Many of these lofty goals are in line with ongoing advocacy efforts championed by the American College of Physicians, said Dr. William Golden, who heads the ACP AMA delegation. “ACP strongly supports the AMA's efforts in Washington to improve the practice environment and payment for all specialties after the profession's service to the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
During the meeting, which took place June 10 to 15 in Chicago, the House of Delegates also adopted a resolution stating that it is a violation of human rights when the government impedes access to reproductive health services, including abortion and contraception. Per this new policy, the AMA will seek expanded legal protections for patients and physicians against governments that criminalize reproductive health services. “ACP supports this resolution along with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other medical groups,” Golden said.
In addition, the delegates adopted new policy to regulate homemade “ghost guns,” research warnings on ammunition packages and consider the mental health of schoolchildren as they engage in active-shooter drills. “This very strong advocacy has ACP's support, and we welcome having the AMA more front and center as we work on ending gun violence,” Golden said.
There was also a push to address medical disinformation spread by health professionals. During the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular, such misinformation led to confusion and resulted in people declining COVID-19 vaccination. “We don't want to penalize honestly held opinions that are at variance with mainstream clinical opinions, but on the other hand, there is little patience for physicians who are putting out really false information,” Golden explained.
Moreover, during the meeting, there was a “hot and spirited” discussion about hair grooming policies for physicians and medical students, Golden added. “People from different ethnic and religious groups feel discriminated against because they are asked to cut their hair,” he said. “These individuals want hair protection devices that are equitable across different hairstyles.”
The delegates adopted policy that encourages health care institutions to provide adequate protective equipment in accordance with patient safety for health care workers with natural hairstyles or cultural headwear, acknowledging that discrimination against natural hairstyles and cultural headwear is a form of racial, ethnic or religious discrimination.
ACP also cosponsored two resolutions that were adopted at the meeting, including one advocating for a repeal or modification of the Medicare Appropriate Use Criteria. “This gave us an opportunity to work across the aisles with procedural and specialist colleagues on a common initiative,” Golden said.
As it stands, physicians who order more imaging than their colleagues will be subject to substantial fines and requirements for prior authorizations. “We all know the frustration that prior authorizations cause for physicians and patients alike,” Dr. Ryan D. Mire, ACP president, said during his remarks at the meeting. “If this program goes into effect, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services needs to ensure that it won't just be putting an unnecessary and ineffective administrative burden on physicians.”
ACP also sponsored a resolution declaring climate change a public health crisis. “Climate change is here, and it is already impacting human health,” Mire said. The AMA will now develop a plan for how to enact climate change policies.
According to Golden, there is now a lot of synergy between the AMA and ACP. “ACP is now one of the largest delegations to the AMA, and our influence is growing substantially,” he said.
To that end, Dr. David A. Fleming is now vice chair of the Council on Ethical & Judicial Affairs at the AMA, Dr. Suja Mathew was elected to the Council of Medical Education, and Dr. Sandra Fryhofer was reelected to the Board of Trustees and now serves as its chair. Dr. Tracy Henry is a new appointee to the AMA Council on Legislation, and Dr. Noel Deep is now chair of the AMA Council on Science and Public Health.