The American Medical Association's great debate over transitioning Medicare to a premium-support system
fizzled out as the final action taken at the year's annual House of Delegates meeting called upon the organization to take the issue up again at its interim meeting in November in Honolulu.
Delegates spent an hour discussing the issue
in a committee meeting on Sunday. On Tuesday, delegates accepted the committee's recommendation, which included giving the resolution a new title—switching to “Medicare Financing Options” from “Transitioning Medicare to a Premium Support System”—and adding some words signifying that beneficiaries could also choose to remain in the “traditional” program.
“The amended language acknowledges the ongoing work of the Council on Medical Service on this important issue, and specifically calls on our AMA to consider ways to implement a defined contribution program that will promote patient choice, ensure affordability for beneficiaries, and operate within a marketplace of competing health insurance plans,” the committee stated in its report.
Another change was dropping the term “premium support” and using “defined contribution” instead.
The maneuvers allow the Council on Medical Affairs, the AMA's advisory panel on socioeconomic issues, to continue working on a report working out details of how the transition to premium support would occur.
The report was originally on the annual meeting agenda, but then council members withdrew it saying it needed more work. A firestorm resulted, and the controversy led the Louisiana delegation to introduce a late resolution to push the issue forward
The Texas Medical Association sent a message on Twitter that the expected policy showdown had dissipated “thanks to a finely crafted compromise.”
While Bob Doherty, the American College of Physicians senior vice president for government affairs and public policy, tweeted “to be clear, AMA continues to favor Medicare defined contribution even as it votes to 'refine' policy.”
Dr. Roland Goertz, chairman of the American Academy of Family Physicians, said in an interview that ensuring affordability and getting the issue back to the advisory panel was the focus of his delegation's efforts.
“We wanted it to go back to the council to let them finish their work,” Goertz said, noting that the AMA interim meeting will be held after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and after the presidential and Congressional elections. “That will be after a lot of things happen.”
He added that it's acknowledged that “some nuance, some new procedures were needed” to keep Medicare viable.
“We all know that,” Goertz said.