CHICAGO — The American Medical Association (AMA) announced new policies adopted by physician and medical student leaders from all corners of medicine at the Special Meeting of the AMA House of Delegates. Policies adopted help the AMA drive the future of medicine, remove obstacles that interfere with patient care, and improve the health of the nation.

The AMA’s House of Delegates is the policy-making body at the center of American medicine, bringing together an inclusive group of physicians, medical students and residents representing every state and medical field. Delegates work in a democratic process to create a national physician consensus on emerging issues in public health, science, ethics, business and government to continually provide safer, higher quality and more efficient care for patients and communities.

The policies adopted by the House of Delegates this week include:

Improving access to substance use disorder treatment amid evolving overdose epidemic

Despite some signs of progress in prescription opioid-related overdoses, the U.S. is still facing an evolving overdose epidemic that is increasingly fueled by illicit fentanyl and stimulant drugs—and becoming more deadly. In response, the nation’s physicians adopted new AMA policy today advocating for expanded federal funding for states to improve access to evidence-based addiction treatment—a major barrier for the more than 2 million Americans with an untreated substance use disorder. The policy is especially aimed at bolstering long-term funding and creating a comprehensive framework to treat all substance use disorders, including treatment for patients who suffer from both substance use and mental disorders at the same time.

“The changing landscape of this epidemic poses challenges for our health system, which must prioritize access to evidence-based care for patients with substance use disorder,” said AMA Trustee Thomas J. Madejski, M.D. “We cannot lose sight of the fact that our nation’s drug overdose epidemic is killing more than 70,000 Americans each year, which is why the AMA will continue to call on stakeholders to help eliminate barriers to evidence-based treatment.” 

Protecting residents and fellows affected by unexpected hospital closures

Building on the American Medical Association’s (AMA) efforts to financially and professionally protect residents and fellows displaced by unexpected teaching hospital closures, physicians, residents and medical students at the Special Meeting of  the AMA House of Delegates (HOD) today adopted policy aimed at better preparing for future events similar to the closing of Hahnemann University Hospital in 2019. The sudden shutdown left more than 570 residents and fellows without the required malpractice insurance coverage—and without a spot in a medical training program.

Under the new policy, the AMA will continue to help monitor related issues that arise at programs and hospitals owned by corporate entities. Specifically, the policy calls for revising federal regulations to specify that residency slots are not hospital assets and for developing an application process that would allow displaced residents to match with other institutions. It also asks for the creation of rules requiring teaching institutions to maintain a professional liability fund for these situations, and urging requirements so that residents are provided with an institution’s financial health details, such as credit ratings or merger/acquisition information. Additionally, it directs the AMA to assist in minimizing confusion and misinformation in the event of a sudden closure by coordinating with appropriate stakeholders on communications efforts.

“The AMA remains committed to ensuring that residents and fellows are safeguarded professionally and financially in the event of an unforeseen teaching hospital closure. It is our obligation to help mitigate any related hardships that displaced residents may face in these unfortunate situations,” said AMA Trustee Grayson Armstrong, M.D., M.P.H. “By creating a policy playbook to plan ahead and prepare for potential shutdown circumstances, we can better assist these physicians-in-training in moving forward as seamlessly as possible, allowing them to focus on completing their training and caring for patients.”

The AMA engaged legal counsel to represent the displaced Hahnemann residents and fellows in bankruptcy proceedings, which settled in March 2020. In addition, the AMA and AMA Foundation helped fund grants to offset relocation expenses for the affected physicians.

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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.

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