AMA Adopts New Policies During First Day of Voting at Interim Meeting
CHICAGO - The American Medical Association (AMA), the nation’s largest and most influential physician organization, voted during its policy-making meeting to adopt the following new items to its advocacy agendas in science, public health and legislation:
Clinical Application of Next-Generation Genomic Sequencing
New technologies have been developed that enable rapid genome sequencing in the clinical setting for dramatically reduced costs, but implementation challenges must be addressed in order to fully realize the potential of these technologies to improve health outcomes. Policy adopted today by the AMA recognizes the utility of next-generation sequencing technologies and supports regulatory policy that protects patient rights and confidentiality, and enables physicians to access and use such diagnostic tools as clinically appropriate. The policy also calls on the AMA to inform and educate physicians and physicians-in-training on the clinical uses of these technologies.
“Advances in DNA sequencing technology offer patients and physicians a new diagnostic tool to help improve health outcomes, but clinical challenges must be addressed to realize the full potential benefits of this technology,” said AMA Board Member Robert M. Wah, M.D. “While cost and time barriers to genetic sequencing have been reduced, important privacy, practice, payment and regulatory issues, including how to compensate physicians and other health care professionals for the considerable work-related demands required, must still be addressed.”
Advocating for Hepatitis C Virus Education, Prevention, Screening and Treatment
An estimated 3.2 million Americans are currently infected with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV), and the CDC estimates that more than half of those are unaware that they have the virus. More than 2 million of the 3.2 Americans infected with Hepatitis C are estimated to have been born between 1945 and 1965. Recent studies have shown that birth year-based screening is an extremely cost-effective way of testing for Hepatitis C. New AMA policy adopted today encourages the implementation of birth year-based screening practices for Hepatitis C in alignment with recent CDC recommendations. The policy also encourages the CDC and state Departments of Public Health to develop and coordinate Hepatitis C infection education and prevention efforts.
“If patients with Hepatitis C don’t realize they have the virus and don’t receive treatment, they are at risk for developing cirrhosis or liver cancer later in life,” said AMA Board Member Alexander Ding, M.D. “Millions don’t know they have this virus, but by encouraging the screening of patients born between 1945-1965, physicians can help their patients get the treatment they need to live longer, healthier lives.”
Addressing Violence in the Non-Hospital Work Environment
The AMA’s Board of Trustees presented a report on violence in the non-hospital work environment. A survey found that twelve percent of the physician respondents reported that they were a victim of at least one incident of workplace violence in the past 18 months. Five percent were victims more than one time. The most commonly reported form of abuse was categorized as verbal (70 percent).
“In order to provide the best possible care to patients, and maintain a rewarding work environment for physicians and other health professionals, all forms of workplace violence must be addressed,” said AMA board member Patrice A. Harris, M.D. “This report is an important step towards enhancing the health care workplace setting for both physicians and patients.”
Removing Barriers to Generic Medications
The AMA adopted policy to end the practice of pay for delay in prescription medicine. Pay for delay refers to the practice of brand prescription drug manufacturers paying generic drug manufacturers for not creating generic versions of their medication. This limits the number of prescription options available to patients and contributes to the growth in health care costs.
“Pay for delay keeps quality, low cost generic drugs out of the marketplace and unnecessarily drives up costs for patients,” said Dr. Harris. “In order to ensure the most cost-effective treatment options, this practice must stop.”
Improving Vaccination Coverage for Whooping Cough
The AMA also passed policy to urge Medicare to cover Tdap (Tetanus, Diptheria, Acellular Pertussis) vaccines under Medicare Part B. Tdap vaccinations are currently not reimbursed under Medicare Part B and rates of Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, are on the rise.
“The Tdap vaccination plays a critical role in preventing the spread of pertussis, also known as whooping cough,” said Dr. Harris. “It is important that Medicare Part B provide coverage for this vaccine to help protect patients from this serious illness.”
Eliminating Obstacles in Providing Care to Medicare and Medicaid Patients
Policy was adopted today by the AMA’s House of Delegates to seek federal legislation or regulatory changes to stop Medicare and Medicaid from decertifying physicians due to unpaid student loan debt. The current practice of decertifying physicians with outstanding loan debt stops them from accepting Medicare and Medicaid patients and undermines their ability to repay the student loans.
“Preventing a physician with outstanding student loan debt from participating in Medicare and Medicaid unnecessarily compromises access to care for patients,” said Dr. Harris. “Unpaid student loan debt should not stand in the way of physicians providing care to Medicare and Medicaid patients.”
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About the American Medical Association (AMA)
The American Medical Association helps doctors help patients by uniting physicians nationwide to work on the most important professional, public health and health policy issues. The nation’s largest physician organization plays a leading role in shaping the future of medicine. For more information on the AMA, please visit www.ama-assn.org.