CHICAGO — The American Medical Association (AMA), the premier national physician organization in the country, voted today to adopt new policies during the voting session of the AMA’s Annual Meeting.

The policies adopted by the House of Delegates include:

Telemedicine and Health Equity

As telemedicine is becoming widespread, the AMA wants to continue ensuring that patients in underserved areas and seniors with complex health conditions have the technology skills to take advantage of this new mode of care. The AMA will encourage policymakers to determine what resources and training patients need to maximize the benefits of telehealth and its potential to improve health outcomes.

“We need to better understand what underlying challenges and barriers exist to digital health literacy. With that information, the AMA will continue advocating for solutions to meet the needs of marginalized populations of varying location, education, culture and age,” said AMA Board of Trustees member Alexander Ding, M.D., M.S., M.B.A. “Digital literacy is an important health equity issue with the power to bring us closer to achieving best health for all.”

Vision Requirements for Driver’s Licenses

With automobile technology speeding along, the AMA will engage stakeholders to recommend standardized vision requirements for driver’s licenses. State standards vary, and studies suggest that many are not grounded in data. The standards have been used to deny drivers licenses to individuals, causing isolation, depression, and increased expenses due to unnecessary medical visits. Studies have shown that drivers with poor visual acuity can be taught to drive safely.

Additionally, technology advances – such as autonomous vehicles – suggest that the standards need updating.

“Physicians have unique opportunities to assess the impact of physical and mental conditions on patients’ ability to drive safely, and we have a responsibility to do so in light of our professional obligation to protect public health and safety,” said AMA Board of Trustees member Alexander Ding, M.D., M.S., M.B.A.  “We need updated guidance from policymakers on how to make these judgments especially as new automobile technology is changing how we think about this.”

Regulation of Cool/Nonmenthol Tobacco Products

Longtime advocates for regulating tobacco, the AMA will take aim at tobacco companies’ latest efforts to entice people to smoke.

The AMA will urge policymakers to treat new “cooling/nonmenthol” tobacco products in the same manner as tobacco products with characterizing flavor for legal and regulatory purposes.  Tobacco companies have introduced these new products to evade menthol bans and continue marketing flavored tobacco products to youth and marginalized populations.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed rules to ban menthol flavored cigarettes and flavored cigars, while California has banned menthol cigarettes. The tobacco industry markets the new products as “cool” and “fresh” – the same terms used to describe menthol tobacco products.

“For the health of our patients, the AMA is engaged in a game of whack-a-mole with the tobacco industry. Every regulatory effort is met with a similar effort to sidestep it. We have a professional obligation to keep extending regulations to outmaneuver Big Tobacco,” said AMA Board of Trustees member Ilse Levin, D.O, M.P.H. & T.M.

Ending Disparity in Sentencing for Crack and Powder Cocaine

The AMA will support state and federal efforts to eliminate the disparity in sentencing for crack and powder cocaine – and apply it retroactively to those already convicted or sentenced.

Sentencing disparities have resulted in powder-cocaine offenders going to prison for one day for the same offense that would result in a crack-cocaine offender being behind bars for 18 days. This 1-to-18 disparity has resulted in a disproportionate share of Black and Brown people receiving lengthier sentences.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s has instructed federal prosecutors to end sentencing disparities between offenders convicted of crimes involving crack and powder cocaine.

“The disparity has no basis in science. There are no significant pharmacological differences between the drugs. Not only do we need to stop the disparity, but we also need to go back and ensure justice for those who were convicted under these unjust laws,” said AMA Board of Trustees member Ilse Levin, D.O, M.P.H. & T.M.

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About the American Medical Association

The American Medical Association is the physicians’ powerful ally in patient care. As the only medical association that convenes 190+ state and specialty medical societies and other critical stakeholders, the AMA represents physicians with a unified voice to all key players in health care.  The AMA leverages its strength by removing the obstacles that interfere with patient care, leading the charge to prevent chronic disease and confront public health crises and, driving the future of medicine to tackle the biggest challenges in health care.