AMA tackles lung cancer screening, telemedicine, lobbying issues at annual meet

The nation’s big-tent physician association, the American Medical Association, took a number of actions this week at its annual meeting in Chicago, including a vote by the House of Delegates to recommend that Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance cover low-dose CT lung-cancer screening for high-risk patients.

“This AMA vote is a recognition that the nation’s medical providers know how vital access to these exams is for many of their patients,” said Bibb Allen, MD, chair of the ACR Board of Chancellors, in a prepared statement from ACR. “For the first time, we can save thousands of people each year from the nation’s leading cancer killer. It’s time for Medicare to cover these lifesaving exams, provide access for seniors and help the medical community save lives.”

The AMA also voted to adopt a list of guiding principles for telemedicine to ensure the appropriate coverage and payment, foster innovation, protect the patient-physician relationship and promote improved care coordination. A policy report developed by the AMA Council on Medical Services was the source of the principles.

Telemedicine impacts all three of the AMA’s strategic focus areas: improving health outcomes, enhancing physician satisfaction and practice sustainability and accelerating change in medical education, said Robert M. Wah, MD, who was inaugurated as the 169th president at the meeting, in a prepared statement.

“Whether a patient is seeing his or her physician in person or via telemedicine, the same standards of care for the patient must be maintained. Telemedicine can strengthen the patient-physician relationship and improve access to receive care remotely, as medically appropriate, including treatment for chronic conditions, which are proven ways to improve health outcomes and reduce health care costs,” Wah said in a prepared statement.

Wah, a Virginia physician with more than 23 years of military service, is a reproductive endocrinologist and OB-GYN, is the organization’s first Chinese-American president. He served more than 23 years on active duty as a captain in the U.S. Navy Medical Corps. The association also elected president-elect Steven J. Stack, MD, who will be the AMA’s youngest president in 100 years when he assumes office in June 2015.

The association also voted to initiate an annual review of AMA political advocacy efforts. A resolution noting recent advocacy failures and introduced by the Florida delegation called for an independent committee to evaluate AMA lobbying team, according to an article in Modern Healthcare. The resolution was softened in a rewrite and instead calls for an annual report that highlights successes, challenges and recommendations to optimize advocacy efforts.

The Florida delegation cited the following disappointments: the failure to get Congress to eliminate the sustainable growth rate (SGR) factor and enact long-term reform of Medicare physician payment and administrative burden associated with the delayed but imminent transition to ICD-10.