Our AMA tallies major achievements during a time of turbulence

David O. Barbe, MD, MHA
Immediate Past President
American Medical Association
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Reflecting on the AMA’s work of the past year, I am heartened that we have achieved a number of successes on behalf of our patients and our profession, even during what has been a challenging and often turbulent time. 

2017 saw robust debate over national health-system reform. The AMA continues to push for nine key principles—including affordability, accessibility, protecting safety net programs and patient protections—with one overarching goal: maintaining and expanding health care coverage for Americans. To date, leadership from the AMA and like-minded groups has kept Congress from passing proposals that would eliminate Medicaid coverage for millions of Americans. 

We’ve also been fighting back against insurance mergers that would have decreased competition, weakened our negotiating power, and—in the case of the Anthem-Cigna merger alone— would have cost physicians an estimated $500 million dollars in reduced payments every year.  Thanks in large part to our advocacy, both the Anthem-Cigna and Aetna-Humana mergers are now dead. 

Another huge priority for the AMA in 2017 was reining in the regulatory burden imposed by government and private insurers. From our work to reform the prior-authorization process to our close collaboration with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on Medicare regulations implementing the new MACRA-Quality Payment Program (QPP), we are helping physicians better navigate the payment process.

Thanks to AMA advocacy, regulations are much less onerous, particularly for small physician practices, which are now on a more level playing field with larger practices. Importantly, physicians can avoid a 4 percent payment cut in 2019 penalties by simply reporting one quality measure for one patient this year.

In addition to our advocacy successes, we continue to make meaningful progress on the AMA’s strategic priorities. 

Our campaign to improve the practice environment and restore the joy of medicine gained momentum in 2017 as we continued to develop and disseminate STEPS Forward™ practice-improvement modules and worked to reduce the EHR and paperwork burden. 

Notably, we also launched the AMA’s Integrated Health Model Initiative, an endeavor to create a common data model unlike anything that exists today.  It is a model that will capture and deliver better organized and more relevant information about a patient’s clinical data to physicians at the point of care and will be more easily shared across health systems. 

Our work with outside partners to increase awareness of prediabetes and hypertension, and prevent their progression to full-blown diabetes and heart disease, continues to have meaningful impact. Next year we will launch a new public-awareness campaign targeting adults who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure that is not adequately controlled. 

And, finally, we are succeeding in changing medical education as innovations implemented by our 32 ACE Consortium schools continue to spread to other medical schools. Current medical students can turn to the AMA for a variety of resources to help them succeed, including financial guidance, USMLE test preparation and Match advice.

This great progress—for physicians and for patients—would not have been possible without the support of our AMA members. Membership moves medicine. 

If you are not currently a member of the AMA, we invite you to join us. We would love to have your input, and your energy, as we take on the big issues in medicine. 

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