NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The American Medical Association (AMA), the premier national physician organization in the country, voted to adopt new policies on emerging health care topics during the voting session of its Interim Meeting.

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 at the Interim Meeting this week include:

Protecting and improving access to zero-dollar preventive care

The AMA will take steps promoting patient access to preventive interventions as the health care industry strives to provide coverage for select preventive services without cost-sharing as required by the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA).

“The ACA requirement for coverage of select preventive services without cost-sharing has been a popular and successful step in promoting access to preventive care, but more could and should be done to facilitate and incentivize high-value care,” said AMA Secretary Russell W.H. Kridel, M.D. “The AMA can play a critical leadership role in building needed common understanding, coding tools and education resources to protect and improve access to zero-dollar preventive care.”

Stakeholders throughout the health care community can benefit from common understanding of which preventive services are covered without patient cost-sharing, how such services should be coded for billing, and education tools about recommended preventive services and their availability without cost-sharing.

The AMA decided to pursue three steps to protect and improve access to zero-dollar preventive care:

  • First, the AMA will continue to support requiring private health plans to provide coverage for evidence-based preventive services without imposing cost-sharing on patients.
  • Second, the AMA will develop coding guidance tools to help providers appropriately bill for zero-dollar preventive interventions and promote common understanding regarding what will be covered at given cost-sharing levels.
  • Finally, the AMA will develop physician educational tools that prepare physicians for conversations with their patients about the scope of preventive services provided without cost-sharing and instances where and when preventive services may result in financial obligations for the patient.

Continued 9-1-1 modernization and implementation of text-to-9-1-1 service

With the current 9-1-1 system primarily built upon infrastructure that does not uniformly support modern communications technologies including texting, geolocation and images, delegates approved a resolution aimed at bolstering the system, particularly with regard to SMS messaging. The resolution supports funding for the modernization of the 9-1-1 infrastructure and the incorporation of text to 9-1-1 technology, which would improve access to 9-1-1 services for those with hearing and speech disabilities, as well as in locations where 9-1-1 call centers are not currently mandated to accept SMS messages.

“Infrastructure and SMS improvements to our 9-1-1 system will save lives, period,” said Albert J. Osbahr, III, M.D., a member of the AMA Board of Trustees. “At a time when Americans overwhelmingly own smart phones and the vast majority of 9-1-1 calls are made from cell phones or other handheld devices, it is inexplicable that this technology is not being used to its fullest extend to help in an emergency. Hopefully, by highlighting this gap, we can spark action that will ensure all Americans have access to 9-1-1 services when they need them the most.”

Expanding broadband and wireless connectivity

The AMA will advocate for the expansion of broadband and wireless connectivity in underserved areas to ensure equal access to digital health tools that require connectivity.

“Patients stand at the intersection of health and technology. Without broadband and wireless, patients in underserved areas will face even greater health challenges,” said Gerald E. Harmon, M.D., immediate past chair of the AMA Board of Trustees.

Sexual assault education and prevention in public schools

The AMA will support state legislation mandating that public middle and high school health education programs include age appropriate information on sexual assault education and prevention, including but not limited to topics of consent and sexual bullying.

“This topic often is discussed in college, 42 percent of forced sexual violence victims are assaulted before they are 18 years old. We need to tackle this problem earlier to protect our children,” said Gerald E. Harmon, M.D., immediate past chair of the AMA Board of Trustees.

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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.