2018 AMA Annual Meeting Recap
While radiologists are increasingly showing their willingness to advocate on behalf of their specialty, there are issues of a certain scope and scale that demand that the entire house of medicine work in concert. When legislators and their constituents want to hear from doctors as a whole, the AMA — the largest single physician organization in the U.S. — is relied upon to craft and communicate a response. That is what the AMA House of Delegates (HOD) — composed of over 500 representatives from every level of training and specialty — sought to do at the recent AMA Annual Meeting in Chicago.
Just prior to the AMA HOD meeting were the Medical Student Section and Resident and Fellow Section meetings, the latter of which I was able to attend as delegate from the ACR RFS. Radiology was well-represented at the RFS meeting — not only was Gunjan Malhotra, MD, elected as vice chair of the AMA RFS, but her resolution advocating for adequate insurance coverage for supplemental screening following mammography was the only resolution which was recommended for adoption without amendments.
Specifically, her resolution called to attention the unique challenges in screening affecting women with dense breasts, including decreased sensitivity of mammography and increased cancer risk. As insurance coverage of supplemental screening exams for women with dense breasts is not currently required, her resolution calls on the AMA to advocate for increased reimbursement for, and access, to these examinations. Having passed the RFS HOD, her resolution will be introduced to the AMA HOD, also known as the “big house,” at the next meeting in November. If it is adopted as AMA policy by the HOD, it would then serve as a guidepost in mobilizing the considerable advocacy resources of the AMA in support of improved breast cancer screening.
Of course, the AMA HOD had to first get through the resolutions and reports under consideration for the current meeting, of which there were hundreds. This year, the AMA adopted a new policy on what they called “augmented intelligence” (learn more at bit.
ly/augmented_intelligence). The goals outlined in this policy look very similar to those radiology is working toward, given the foundational work that the ACR Data Science Institute™ (DSI) has done to ensure safe and appropriate data science solutions for our patients.
The AMA HOD also adopted a resolution to study the effects of acquisition of physician practices by venture capital and private equity firms. This includes looking at the effects on physician practice, patient access, and use of non-physician extenders. This topic hits close to home for many private practice radiologists, and judging by the testimony, numerous other specialties felt equally strongly. Another fascinating discussion revolved around resolutions attempting to address the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), which is a part of Medicare’s efforts to transition from a fee-for-service system to a reimbursement structure based on several performance categories. While this was a contentious topic, the resolutions that were adopted reflected attempts to improve upon MIPS, instead of opposing its implementation. Personally, I found it inspiring that the Radiology Section Council, along with the majority of the HOD, were able to recognize that though MIPS is far from perfect, harnessing the existing momentum toward quality-based payments is the most effective path towards improving patient care and access to care.
Other topics addressed at the meeting included the Affordable Care Act, the opioid epidemic, the gender pay gap, and gun violence. It was an incredible experience to be in the thick of it all, and I encourage any radiology residents that have an interest in health policy to engage with your local or state medical society — there’s no better way to prove that the field of radiology is invested in the future of the medical profession than to be active participants in these far-reaching discussions. The 2018 AMA Interim Meeting will take place November 10–13 and I hope to see you there!