The American Medical Association (AMA) Interim Meeting of the House of Delegates (HOD) took place November 11–14, 2017, in Honolulu, HI. A total of 532 delegates were in attendance to debate the policy implications of 36 reports and 99 resolutions.
The American College of Surgeons (ACS) sent a six-member delegation to the meeting. ACS also participates in AMA activities in other capacities, including in the AMA Young Physician Section Assembly, the AMA Resident and Fellow Section Assembly, and the AMA Council on Medical Education. These three groups met in conjunction with the HOD meeting. See the sidebar on page 74 for the list of ACS delegates and their other AMA roles.
ACS cosponsored issues
The AMA HOD brings together a variety of perspectives in medicine, and the job of the ACS delegation is to shape AMA policy consistent with College priorities. One way the ACS achieves this objective is by cosponsoring resolutions that have been submitted by other delegations and that are relevant to the College Fellowship. The ACS delegation cosponsored three resolutions at the November meeting—two on scope-of-practice issues and one on physician payment—all of which were adopted.
Advanced practice registered nurse compact
Resolution 214, Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) Compact, was initiated by the American Society of Anesthesiologists and strengthened with amendments. AMA policy opposes enactment of the Advanced APRN Multistate Compact because of its potential to supersede state laws that require APRNs to practice under physician supervision, as well as legislation that authorizes the independent practice of medicine by any individual who has not completed the state’s requirement for licensure to practice medicine. The AMA will convene an in-person meeting of relevant physician stakeholders to create a consistent national strategy to prevent fulfillment of the APRN Compact.
Physician assistant independent practice
Resolution 230, Oppose Physician Assistant Independent Practice, with support from a spectrum of state medical and national specialty societies, continued the theme of opposition to legislation or regulation that allows physician extenders—in this case physician assistants—to practice independently. Another resolution addressed the emerging advanced physician assistant degree known as doctor of medical science. The AMA opposes holders of this degree from being recognized as a new category of health care practitioners licensed for the independent practice of medicine.
Reduced payment for the 25-modifier
Resolution 808, Opposition to Reduced Payment for the 25-Modifier, was offered by the American Academy of Dermatology. The resolution was a response to private insurers discounting evaluation and management (E/M) codes by 50 percent when linked through the 25-modifier to a procedure on the same day. This resolution passed as simplified by amendment to have AMA aggressively and immediately advocate, through any legal means possible (such as direct payor negotiations, regulations, legislation, or litigation), for non-reduced allowable payment of appropriately reported 25-modifier E/M codes when linked with procedures.
Other HOD-adopted resolutions of interest
- BOT (Board of Trustees) Report 5, Effective Peer Review, amended the AMA Physician and Medical Staff Member Bill of Rights to add “protection from any retaliatory actions” to the list of immunity rights when physicians participate in good faith peer-review activities. In testimony at the reference committee, the delegation highlighted the value of the new ACS “red book,” Optimal Resources for Surgical Quality and Safety, for establishing peer-review standards in surgical care.
- Council on Science and Public Health Report 2, Targeted Education to Increase Organ Donation, amended the AMA policy, Methods to Increase the U.S. Organ Donor Pool. As a result, the AMA supports studies that evaluate the effectiveness of mandated choice and presumed consent models for increasing organ donation and urges development of effective methods to inform populations with historically low participation rates about donating.
- Resolution 953, Fees for Taking Maintenance of Certification (MOC) Examination, amended AMA MOC policy to assert that the MOC process should reflect the cost of development and administration of the MOC components, ensure a fair fee structure, and not hinder patient care. The AMA will advocate that value in MOC includes cost-effectiveness with full financial transparency, respect for physicians’ time and patient care commitments, alignment of MOC requirements with other regulator and payor requirements, and adherence to an evidence basis for both MOC content and processes.
Not every item was viewed favorably at the AMA meeting. Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs (CEJA) Report 1, Competence, Self-Assessment and Self-Awareness, sought to provide guidance for physicians in determining their own competence when practicing medicine. The council observed, “As an ethical responsibility, competence encompasses more than medical knowledge and skill. It requires physicians to understand that as a practical matter in the care of actual patients, competence is fluid and dependent on context.” Considerable testimony emphasized a lack of reliable tools and available resources to assist physicians in self-assessment. Thus, the report was referred back to CEJA for more work.
In addition to facilitating an agenda review and business meeting for surgeons, anesthesiologists, and emergency physicians, the caucus sponsored a popular education session, Hazards of the Deep: Trauma in Paradise. Michael Hayashi, MD, FACS, Chair of the Hawaii Committee on Trauma, discussed system challenges in caring for injured patients from geographically remote and less populated areas. Lieutenant Matthew Brown, MC, USN, an undersea/diving medical officer stationed at Pearl Harbor, HI, shared insights about injuries and medical conditions experienced by scuba divers, swimmers, surfers, and other beach enthusiasts.
After extended service on the delegation, including eight years as Chair, Dr. Armstrong bid “aloha” to the HOD as a retiring delegate. Dr. Turner has accepted the role as Chair, maintaining continued College leadership in the HOD.
The next meeting of the AMA HOD is scheduled for June 9–13 in Chicago, IL. In addition to debate on numerous issues, elections for AMA officers, trustees, and councils will be held at the meeting. Surgeons with suggestions for potential resolutions or questions about ACS activities at the AMA HOD should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.