AMA 2017: Delegates take aim at Trump with new policies

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 - AMA 2017 meeting delegates
Delegates gather at the AMA's 2017 meeting in Chicago.

The American Medical Association (AMA) adopted a wide range of new policies at its annual meeting of delegates in Chicago, ranging from more practice-oriented concerns to politically-charged resolutions related to the positions of President Donald Trump.

The AMA often takes on controversial resolutions, as evidenced by the 2016 vote calling for federally-funded research on gun violence. This year, there were resolutions supporting “the health of immigrants and refugees,” including Trump’s moves to suspend H-1B visas and stop travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries.

“Given that one out of every four physicians practicing in the United States is an international medical graduate, we strongly urge the federal government to rethink its immigration policies to ensure there are enough available physicians to care for our most vulnerable patients in our most underserved communities,” said AMA Immediate Past President Andrew Gurman, MD.

Like several sessions and speeches at the meeting, resolutions also dealt with Trump’s stances on healthcare reform and the legislation he’s supporting to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Delegates voted to opposed caps on funding Medicaid, which the AHCA would turn into per-capita allotments or block grants.

“Capping Medicaid funding would be disastrous for patients by limiting medical responses to unforeseen events and medical innovations. Physicians and states need the flexibility to respond. Caps would threaten coverage for vulnerable populations—especially children and those in need of a safety net—a point we have made repeatedly to policymakers in Washington,” said Carl Sirio, MD, member of the AMA Board of Trustees.

Delegates also voted to support studying a government-run health insurance option, which had been favored by President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Not all of the AMA’s adopted policies went against Trump. For example, existing policy supporting the idea of selling health insurance across state lines, as Trump has favored, was expanded by delegates to “ensure that the insurance products being sold comply with state laws intended to protect consumers.”

Many other policies were adopted at the meeting which were more closely related to clinical practice. These included:

  • Addressing physician burnout by removing reasons which discourage doctors to seek mental health treatment, like directing state medical boards to ensure “ that a previously diagnosed mental health illness is not automatically considered as a current impairment to practice.”
  • Adopting new principles for retail clinics, including being able to transfer electronic health records to other providers, helping patients find primary care physicians and limiting what services they offer to patients to minor acute illnesses.
  • Calling on CMS to extend 60-day limit on billing locum tenens so “physicians facing illnesses, family emergencies, or prolonged absences after childbirth can take the time off that they need.”
  • Promoting more physicians to boards for insurance, medical device and health IT companies as well as acute care organizations.