News from the 2022 AMA Interim Meeting

It was another eventful policymaking meeting for the AMA House of Delegates, which held its first in-person Interim Meeting since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the delegates met in Honolulu, I led our news team’s editorial coverage from that earthly paradise known as the Midwest.

This article, “ICYMI: 10 stories to read from the 2022 AMA Interim Meeting,” offers a relatively brief rundown of the meeting.

Our blog, “Highlights from the 2022 AMA Interim Meeting,” provides a more complete account of our news coverage and includes actions that didn’t result in full-blown news articles.

I also filed these two stories based on actions at the meeting:

How the 10 largest PBMs hold huge sway in health care marketplace

The AMA has gathered first-of-its-kind data on pharmacy benefit managers and its analysis finds a widespread high degree of market concentration in local markets across the U.S. where PBMs provide services to commercial health insurers.

At the national level, the analysis found that a handful of PBMs have a large collective market share for the three PBM services most used by insurers:

  • The 10 largest PBMs had a collective share of 97%.
  • The four largest PBMs had a collective share of roughly 66%.
  • Six PBMs are used exclusively by one insurer or a set of Blue Cross Blue Shield affiliates.

From my latest at the AMA. The whole shebang.

Optometrists doing eye surgery? Radical bill vetoed on safety grounds

California Gov. Gavin Newsom this week vetoed a radical measure that would have allowed optometrists without the necessary training and education to perform complex procedures such as laser eye surgery and administering needle injections to the eye.

“I am not convinced that the education and training required is sufficient to prepare optometrists to perform the surgical procedures identified,” Newsom wrote in his veto message. “This bill would allow optometrists to perform advanced surgical procedures with less than one year of training. In comparison, physicians who perform these procedures must complete at least a three-year residency program. For this reason, I cannot sign this bill.”

My latest for the AMA. Read the whole shebang.

Telehealth is fundamental to care. The Senate must act like it.

The AMA and more than 300 other physician, health care and patient organizations are calling on the U.S. Senate to follow the example set by a bipartisan 416–12 vote in the House of Representatives and continue regulatory and payment telehealth flexibilities for at least two years.

Access through telehealth “has been transformational—patients now expect and often prefer telehealth as a key component of our health care system,” says the letter, which notes that doctors and other health care organizations “have been able to reach many patients that previously had access barriers through virtual care.”

My latest for the AMA. Read the whole shebang.

Another question for patients: Are you registered to vote?

With voter-registration deadlines for the November elections fast approaching, physicians and medical students now have a new way to engage patients in quick, productive and nonpartisan discussions about how to take part in the electoral process.

The House of Delegates in June updated AMA policy to acknowledge that “voting is a social determinant of health and significantly contributes to the analyses of other social determinants of health as a key metric.”

Emory University MD-PhD student Jasmin Eatman was part of the effort to update that policy, and she appeared this week on “AMA Moving Medicine” with Aliya Bhatia, who is executive director of Vot-ER. About 25,000 doctors and other health professionals have worked with Vot-ER, and anyone in such a role can order a free Vot-ER badge, which includes a QR code that patients with smartphones can scan to complete the voter-registration process on their own time.

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

Huge House win puts telehealth extension in Senate’s hands

The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly for a bipartisan bill that extends Medicare telehealth payment and regulatory flexibilities through the end of 2024. The House’s 416–12 vote last week is a manifestation of the massive support among lawmakers, patients and physicians to build on the gains of telehealth seen during the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure it continues to be an accessible mode of care for the long haul.

My latest for the AMA. Read the whole shebang.

Also, check out these two recent stories on congressional bills to rein in prior authorization:

Supreme Court curbs EPA’s ability to cut greenhouse-gas emissions

In the third major high-court decision in the last two weeks to deal a blow to public health, a 6–3 U.S. Supreme Court majority restricted the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to effectively regulate the greenhouse-gas emissions that cause climate change and have been proven to harm the public health.

“Regulating and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions is critical for combating the climate crisis and its major health implications, impacting the respiratory, cardiovascular and immune systems of the U.S. population,” said AMA President Jack Resneck Jr., MD.

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

Doctors back continued nationwide access to medication abortion

At the urging of the AMA and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Biden administration announced that it will take steps to protect patients’ access to mifepristone.

“Some states are saying that they’ll try to ban or severely restrict access to” mifepristone and other medications, President Joe Biden said in response to the Supreme Court’s 6–3 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned the decades-old Roe v. Wade precedent guaranteeing abortion rights nationwide.

“The American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists wrote to me and Vice President Harris stressing that these laws are not based on evidence and asking us to act to protect access to care,” the president added. “They say by limiting access to these medicines, maternal mortality will climb in America.”

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

ICYMI: 10 stories to read from the 2022 AMA Annual Meeting

Nearly 700 physicians, residents and medical students gathered in Chicago for the 2022 AMA Annual Meeting to consider a wide array of proposals to help fulfill the AMA’s core mission of promoting medicine and improving public health.

The occasion marked the first time that the AMA House of Delegates met in person since the emergence of COVID-19, and the physicians did so following a strict health-and-safety protocol. 

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

For a more complete rundown, check out the Highlights from the 2022 AMA Annual Meeting.

Also published recently:

The meeting also was the stage for the full unveiling of the AMA Recovery Plan for America’s Physicians.

10 principles to fix Medicare’s unsustainable physician pay system

The AMA and 120 state medical and national specialty societies have endorsed a set of 10 principles that should guide Congress as lawmakers ponder a much-needed overhaul to remedy the financial instabilities that are affecting physician practices due to the pandemic, statutory payment cuts, lack of inflationary updates and significant administrative burdens.

Under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) of 2015, physicians are in the middle of a six-year payment freeze. Adjusted for inflation in practice costs, Medicare physician payment fell 20% from 2001 to 2021, and without an inflation-based update, the gap between frozen physician payment rates and rising inflation in medical practice costs will widen. The Medicare payment system is on an unsustainable path threatening patient access to physicians.

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

How Medicare Advantage plans wrongly deny prior auth requests

Momentum to fix prior authorization is building in the wake of a Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General report showing that Medicare Advantage plans delayed and denied patients’ access to medically necessary treatment. They also denied payments to physicians and other health professionals for services that met both coverage and billing rules.

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

Why leaked abortion opinion is “antithetical to public health”

In light of a leaked draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn the abortion rights protected by Roe v. Wade and other precedents, the AMA is profoundly worried about the impact on reproductive health in the United States if the high court ultimately rules in that fashion.

The AMA is “deeply concerned by the contents and implications of the draft Supreme Court opinion for the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case that became public this week,” said AMA President Gerald E. Harmon, MD.

“This opinion would lead to government interference in the patient-physician relationship, dangerous intrusion into the practice of medicine and potentially criminalizing care,” added Dr. Harmon, a family physician in South Carolina.

My latest for the AMA. Read the whole shebang.

7 turning points when the AMA met the moment in medicine

Since its founding in 1847, the AMA has been the physician’s powerful ally in patient care and an unrivaled force that promotes the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health.

From its pioneering work to protect the public from potentially dangerous treatments, to championing the safety and efficacy of vaccines, to advocating for seat belts to be standard in all American automobiles, the AMA has often been at the forefront of sweeping movements to improve the health of our nation.

To comprehensively detail the AMA’s impact is far beyond the scope of this article, but a selective approach can be revelatory as the organization celebrates its 175th anniversary on May 7. A timeline of key dates in AMA history is one place to start, and you can learn more below about seven other critical junctures—one for roughly every 25 years in the organization’s history—when the AMA rose to meet the moment in medicine.

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.