The Sunbeam Corp. endorsement debacle was far from the only thing on the agenda of the December meeting of the American Medical Association's House of Delegates. Here is a summary of other actions by the delegates:
BUDGETThe AMA informed delegates that it would run a $2.3 million deficit from 1997 operations. Additional income from publications was canceled out by $2.1 million in greater-than-expected spending for the American Medical Accreditation Program and a $1.6 million shortfall in expected member dues income. However, the AMA will end up $8.9 million in the black thanks to well-performing investments and the sale of prime downtown Chicago land that will be used for a $500 million shopping and entertainment project. In 1996 the organization posted a surplus of $7.6 million.
AMAPThe board apologized to House members for the slower-than-expected rollout of the physician accreditation program, now operating in New Jersey and scheduled to come to one more state early this year. However, the board reaffirmed its commitment to the program, which has been criticized for its cost-$4.1 million in 1997 and $11.1 million projected for 1998-and for the self-interest of physicians rating other physicians. The Arizona delegation had proposed killing the program but withdrew its resolution.
INSURANCE PAYMENTSDelegates passed a resolution calling for laws banning insurers' delaying "without justification" payments to physicians and hospitals.
COLLECTIVE BARGAININGDelegates approved a board report calling for a change in federal labor laws to allow physicians to engage in collective bargaining with payers; the same report included a call to help develop representational models for residents. However, the same document also reaffirmed that physicians should not withhold services because of a labor disagreement. The report was considered because of increasing union organizing among physicians.
LEGAL ISSUESDelegates passed a resolution to push for decriminalization of "inadvertent billing errors" in Medicare coding.They also approved a policy to consider all medical expert witness testimony subject to peer review. In addition, delegates requested a study-to be completed by the AMA's annual meeting in June-into how the association can set up peer review of such testimony for the purposes of alerting the public and state medical boards of fraudulent testimony.