National Harbor, Maryland – The American Medical Association (AMA) gathered physician and medical student leaders from across the nation this week at its 2023 Interim Meeting to shape guiding policies on emerging health care topics.

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

The policies adopted by the House of Delegates include:

Removing physicians from cost-sharing collections

As health insurers require patients to pay a larger share of health care bills, many physicians do not feel comfortable or adequately equipped to be the collection point for cost-sharing between insurers and patients. In response, the AMA has established new policy supporting the removal of physicians from the middle of cost-sharing between insurers and patients and require insurers to collect deductibles, copays or coinsurance from patients.

Delegates voted to adopt policy instructing the AMA to “support requiring health insurers to collect patient cost-sharing and pay physicians their full allowable amount for health care services provided, unless physicians opt-out to collect such cost-sharing on their own.”

“Requiring physicians to engage in the collection of cost-sharing at the point-of-service negatively impacts many physicians,” said AMA Trustee Marilyn J. Heine, M.D. “Alternative methods of collecting cost-sharing that place the onus on insurers can relieve private practices, especially small and rural practices, of significant administrative burdens that divert financial resources and staff away from patient care.”

The AMA’s Recovery Plan for America’s Physicians is working to remove unnecessary and costly burdens so physicians can focus on patients and keep practices open and sustainable.

Opposing encroachment of administrators on medical decision-making

Growth in the number of health care administrators—those with administrative roles such as Chief Medical Officer or Chief Health Officer—has outpaced growth in the number of clinical physicians. Conflicting goals such as the ethical duties of physicians versus the financial obligations of administrators have created tension and disconnect between the two groups. In response, delegates voted to adopt policy instructing the AMA to advocate for resistance against encroachment of administrators upon physician’s medical decision making.

“The large-scale employment of physicians has brought about a change to the profession that has resulted in conflict,” said AMA Trustee David H. Aizuss, M.D. “Traditional physician autonomy in patient care is now being influenced by pressures motivated by cost versus high quality patient care.”

The key concern regarding this change to the profession is that this new organizational and economic reality of medicine will ultimately harm patients as physicians may feel pressured to make decisions based on cost instead of high-quality patient care such as admitting patients from the emergency department who could be treated as outpatients or to discharge Medicare patients ahead of time.

“We must continue to oppose encroachment of administrators upon medical decision making of attending physicians that is not in the best interest of patients,” said Dr. Aizuss.

Calling for increased flexibility for buprenorphine prescribing for opioid use disorder

The nation’s worsening opioid overdose epidemic prompted the AMA House of Delegates today to call for the elimination of dose limit barriers for adequate buprenorphine treatment for patients with opioid use disorder (OUD). Currently, patients and physicians encounter strict dose limits set by health insurance companies and other payers based on drug labels approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decades ago, when illicitly manufactured fentanyl was not a major cause of mortality, as it is today. Buprenorphine reduces the risk of opioid overdose death, eases opioid withdrawal symptoms and cravings, and helps sustain recovery for patients with an OUD.

“Illicitly manufactured fentanyl and other synthetic opioids have created a far more dangerous and deadly epidemic in recent years, claiming more than 109,000 lives in 2022,” said Bobby Mukkamala, M.D., chair of the AMA Substance Use and Pain Care Task Force. “As the drug overdose epidemic evolves, health systems and insurers must adapt. Our colleagues in addiction medicine are seeing efficacy of using buprenorphine products at higher doses than the current FDA-approved labeling, but health insurers and others prevent patients from receiving this medication in a timely manner. Removing these outdated dosage caps will ensure physicians can prescribe life-saving medications without delay.”

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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.