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Special Meeting of the AMA House of Delegates: News for Physiatrists


Prakash Jayabalan, MD, PhD at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the AMA House of Delegates (HOD)

By: Prakash Jayabalan, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor at Northwestern University/ Shirley Ryan AbilityLab and the AAP’s AMA Representative


The American Medical Association (AMA) held a virtual meeting of the House of Delegates (HOD), November 13-17, 2020. The AMA HOD is comprised of physicians from across the country who represent state or specialty societies and typically meets twice a year to review and discuss hundreds of resolutions related to issues on health and medicine that affect physicians across the specialties. Policy highlights that may impact members of the AAP community include:


Combatting Misinformation About COVID-19 Vaccines

This year's plenary session was an interview with Anthony Fauci, MD (NIAID Director), which can be viewed here. As progress continues to be made towards a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, the AMA affirmed commitment to ensure information regarding the vaccine is rooted in scientific evidence. The HOD directed the AMA to institute a program to promote the integrity of a COVID-19 vaccination program by educating physicians on speaking with patients about the vaccine and provision of culturally appropriate patient education materials. Also, the AMA will aim to counter misinformation and build public confidence in the vaccine. Ongoing monitoring of COVID-19 vaccines, once introduced, was also suggested to ensure the safety and effectiveness in recommended populations.


Recognizing Racism As A Threat to Public Health

The AMA recognized that racism negatively impacts and exacerbates health inequities among historically marginalized communities. The AMA HOD adopted new policies and heard recommendations, including supporting the development of policies to combat racism and its effects on patient health and identifying a set of best practices for health care institutions to adopt to address and mitigate the effects on patients and providers. In addition, the AMA will encourage medical education programs to consider curriculum changes that present race within a socioecological model of society to explain how racism and systemic oppression result in racial health disparities.


Increasing Insurance Company Hours for Prior Authorizations

Pertinent to physiatrists, the HOD directed that the AMA advocate that all insurance companies and benefit managers that require prior authorization ‘have staff available to process approvals 24 hours a day, every day of the year, including holidays and weekends.’ Testimony was received regarding the current approvals process and how it can negatively impact transitions of care and can delay appropriate interventions, contributing to adverse patient outcomes.


Protecting Resident & Fellow Training in A Hospital or Program Closure

This is a follow-up to a resolution introduced last year. The closure of Hahnemann University Hospital (the main teaching hospital of Drexel University) in 2019 left more than 550 residents and fellows without a program in which they could continue their graduate medical education. At this HOD meeting, delegates suggested that the AMA ask the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to stipulate in its regulations that residency slots are not assets that belong to the teaching institution. In addition, the HOD directed the AMA to encourage the ACGME to specify in its Institutional Requirements that sponsoring institutions provide residents and residency applicants information on the financial health of the institution. Of note, the AMA did broker a deal that secured long-tail medical insurance liability coverage for former Hahnemann residents and fellows.


Improving Mental Health Access for Doctors & Medical Students

Mental health disorders can contribute to significant distress and yet a significant number of physicians and medical students are reluctant to get the help they need, due to the potential stigma and discrimination they face in the workplace. This has been particularly highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic, as physicians have faced considerable additional stress and social isolation. The AMA HOD has adopted new policy that advocates for employers to support affordable access to mental and physical health care outside of an individual’s place of work or insurance network to maintain confidentiality of care. The HOD also directed the AMA to advocate for best practices ensuring physicians and medical students have access to appropriate behavioral, mental, primary and specialty health care and addiction services.


Why Should YOU Join the AMA?

It is important for the AAP and our field to have a voice! Please consider joining the AMA so that the AAP can continue to represent you and the field of physiatry. For more information on AMA membership, click here.

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