AMA Wire

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

This Week's News

Litigation Center a strong voice for medicine before U.S. Supreme Court

Litigation Center a strong voice for medicine before U.S. Supreme Court

A recent string of rulings from the highest court of the land have demonstrated the need for a strong physician voice in the nation's courts for the future of American health care.

Several of the latest rulings of the Supreme Court of the United States were issued for cases in which the Litigation Center of the AMA and State Medical Societies, or the AMA itself, filed friend-of-the-court briefs on behalf of the nation's physicians. These rulings support a stronger health care system.

In three decisions issued last week, the high court is helping to eliminate health disparities for patients across the country. The ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin affirmed diversity as a compelling interest in education, which means that medical schools that satisfy strict scrutiny can continue evaluating applicants holistically, considering race, ethnicity and gender as one factor among an applicant's many personal attributes.

"Increasing medical career opportunities for minorities is an important step in developing a diverse physician workforce that will help bridge the gap in racial health disparities," AMA Immediate-past President Jeremy A. Lazarus, MD, said in a statement.

"While our country grows more diverse, minority populations still lag behind on nearly every health indicator, including health care coverage, life expectancy and disease rates," Dr. Lazarus said. "The AMA will continue to support the medical profession's ongoing efforts to provide all patients equal access to the high-quality care that they need and deserve."

The court also ensured that all households in states that recognize same-sex marriage will be afforded the same health care rights under federal law when it overturned the Defense of Marriage Act and left intact a California federal court ruling that struck down that state's ban on same-sex marriage.

"The AMA joined other health care organizations in filing two amicus briefs urging the high court to provide same-sex households with the same rights and privileges to health care, health insurance and survivor benefits as afforded opposite-sex households," said AMA President Ardis Dee Hoven, MD. "Denying these rights and privileges would be detrimental to the health of same-sex couples and the health of their children, according to the briefs."

Earlier in June, the U.S. Supreme Court issued three decisions that are important for patient treatment:

  • In Federal Trade Commission (FTC) v. Watson Pharmaceuticals, the court confirmed that the FTC has the authority to challenge anti-competitive agreements between pharmaceutical companies that deny patients access to affordable generic medications. Read more in a recent issue of AMA Wire.
  • In Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, the court unanimously held that naturally occurring human genes are ineligible for patenting, opening the door for labs across the country to move forward with potentially life-saving genetic testing. Read more in a recent issue of AMA Wire.
  • In Sutter v. Oxford Health Plans, the court's ruling allowed individual physicians to come together as a group to fight unfair business practices of large health insurance companies. Read more in a recent issue of AMA Wire.

With the Litigation Center and the AMA in their corner, physicians can rest assured that their voice will be heard in legal issues that can have a profound impact on the future of health care.