Work in organized medicine, advocacy has no finish line
by Maurice Duggins, MD —
The American Medical Association is an advocate organization for physicians. Colleen Loo-Gross, MD, and I had the privilege of attending the AMA annual meeting in Chicago this month. The outgoing AMA president, Jack Resneck, MD, made a point about the physician’s advocacy journey and the fact that, despite its length, it isn’t a marathon.
“Marathons have a defined end,” he said. “You break the tape at the finish line, and you’re done. There is no more running to do. But … our work in organized medicine has no finish line.”
As long as there are legislators who feel like they should be controlling the relationship between physicians and patients, there will always be a need for organizations such as MSSC, the Kansas Medical Society and the AMA to work to preserve and protect the privacy and care between physicians and patients.
There were many takeaways from the AMA annual meeting. Here are a few that physicians across the country are working on:
Telehealth. The AMA is continuing to encourage solutions to meet the needs of patients through telemedicine. Its use during COVID-19 pandemic helped show how valuable this tool can be. In Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly recently announced a $30 million program to connect rural counties to high-speed internet. The state also won this month a nearly $43 million grant to build internet infrastructure.
Equitable care. I remember being taught that all Black patients should be placed on a diuretic if their blood pressure was elevated, because of the “African gene” theory. And though it has been debunked, it still shows up and limits or delays the appropriate treatment for a patient’s blood pressure. The AMA encourages the overall goal to reduce health disparities and recommends cultivating self-awareness of implicit biases, avoiding language that stigmatizes or demeans patients and using the social history to capture information about non-medical factors that affect a patient’s health status and access to health care.
Physician leadership. The AMA is advocating for physician leadership in emergency rooms instead of non-physicians or financial stakeholders. The AMA discourages any legislation that allows others to test, diagnose and treat medical conditions without physician supervision. Such scope-of-practice creep has occurred in some states, including Kansas, despite the data proving that it is not helping our rural communities.
Residency training. There are not enough residency training programs for the graduating medical students. Expanding the number of residencies is an AMA goal. The AMA also wants to encourage the education of residents in leading interprofessional care teams. As this has become a standard of practice in both hospitals and non-hospital settings, it’s important that physicians know how to work with and lead such teams.
Opioid epidemic. MSSC’s February membership meeting was about fentanyl in Kansas. An AMA report shows drug overdose deaths among 10- to 19-year-olds jumped 109% between 2019 and 2021 in the United States. To save lives, the AMA supports widespread access to safe and affordable overdose reversal drugs such as naloxone. And, consistent with what our MSSC president-elect, Howard Chang, MD, told us back in February, AMA supports naloxone access in schools to help reverse these overdoses.
Pay. When adjusted for inflation, Medicare physician payments have effectively declined more than 20% from 2001 to 2023. AMA is pushing to make an adjustment increase in Medicare physician payments annually at least equal to the annual percentage increase in the Medicare Economic Index. We deserve fair payment for our work.
The MSSC is here to represent and work for you. We appreciate your membership and support as we partner with KMS and the AMA to advocate on your behalf.