The American Society for Surgery of the Hand works very hard to give our members important member benefits and opportunities, but especially in this time of substantial health care reform, it’s important to join an outreach effort that extends beyond the reach of the Hand Society.
The AMA is a rich resource for physicians. In addition to your ASSH membership, joining the AMA is an efficient way to be a part of the decisions that will shape the health care industry. In the message below, Andrew Gurman, MD, ASSH member and AMA Trustee, has shared the incredible accomplishments of the AMA in the past year which have benefited us as hand surgeons.
L. Andrew Koman, MD
AMA: A Helping Hand for Physicians
Andrew Gurman, M.D.
Trustee, American Medical Association
As we focus on the day-to-day work of caring for patients, our energy is concentrated on how to best care for our patients, successfully run our practices, and balance our time at work and with families. Just dealing with the myriad of patient, practice and family needs that present on a daily basis often leaves little time to think and take action on the larger issues in the courts and in the capital that affect the practice of medicine.
That’s where the American Medical Association steps in. As a member of the AMA’s Board of Trustees, I see first-hand the hard work done by the association every day on our behalf – and I’d like to share some of it with you.
As we all know only too well, this year we once again faced the specter of a steep Medicare physician payment cut. Advocacy by AMA and its member physicians turned the tide, and eighteen months of Medicare physician payment cuts were replaced with updates that better reflect growing medical practice costs – this represents a positive swing of $17,000 on average per physician.
These past few months, AMA has made headlines because of its work to make health insurance companies pay appropriate fees for out-of-network care. AMA lawsuits against Cigna, Aetna and WellPoint claim that each insurance company conspired with Ingenix, a unit of UnitedHealth Group, on a price fixing scheme to set artificially low reimbursement rates for out-of-network care. A year-long investigation by the New York attorney general confirmed that the Ingenix database is intentionally rigged to allow insurers to shortchange reimbursements. AMA President Dr. Nancy Nielsen stood by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s side during the public announcement.
While these are two of the more visible examples of the AMA’s work for physicians, there are many more that fly a bit lower on the radar screen. For example, the AMA worked with the National Council of Insurance Legislators to craft model legislation outlawing silent PPO’s. This is an insurance industry practice that siphoned millions of dollars from physicians in the form of discounted fees that were never agreed to.
Recent partnerships with state medical societies have benefited our colleagues in Florida, Arkansas and Pennsylvania. In late 2008, the AMA and the Florida Medical Association successfully fought for the physicians’ right to provide and oversee the medical decisions for patients at Lawnwood Medical Center. The AMA gave significant support to physicians in Arkansas who successfully argued in the courts to overturn economic credentialing by the Baptist Health System. In Pennsylvania, influential testimony by the AMA helped defeat the proposed merger of Highmark and Independence Blue Cross, thus preventing a monopoly.
The AMA does so much more in the areas of medical education, credentialing, quality and safety. For example, a brand new online learning center was launched for physicians interested in implementing ePrescribing. The new online learning center includes complete and unbiased information on ePrescribing vendor prices and features and calculators to estimate time savings and determine Medicare ePrescribing incentive payments. The AMA-convened Physician Consortium for Performance Improvement works with the specialty societies and others to develop performance measures, and are considering topics that would apply to hand surgery such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
The work of the AMA benefits all physicians, and we are stronger together. The truth is that we can make a real difference when we work together to improve the health care system. This year looks to be the year for health care reform, and the AMA is hard at work to ensure that reforms are meaningful and benefit physicians and patients.
In these tough economic times it’s tempting to cut costs and not join as many organizations. But the rapid pace of change in the health care system makes it more important than ever that you add your voice to the debate through membership in the AMA.
I invite you to join us, and feel free to contact me at email@example.com. You can also follow news of what the AMA does for you through Twitter at https://twitter.com/AmerMedicalAssn.