Reports critical of the American Medical Association's Sunbeam fiasco and its clumsy support of a partial-birth abortion ban punctuated the AMA House of Delegates' interim meeting Dec. 6-9 in Honolulu. But delegates spent plenty of time on other issues. Among them:
'Our AMA'The AMA's top priority is making sure the nation's 43.4 million uninsured individuals have access to healthcare, says Nancy Dickey, M.D., the association's president and a family practitioner from College Station, Texas. The AMA doesn't have a specific idea about how to accomplish this. But it generally supports giving patients more choices in how their healthcare is financed and delivered, including individually selected and purchased insurance.Delegates heard a consultant's report knocking the AMA for its handling of congressional legislation in 1997 banning partial-birth abortion. The report by Booz, Allen & Hamilton criticized the association for creating the appearance of trading support for the ban for a more favorable Medicare payment schedule, although the consultant says there appeared to be no quid pro quo discussed with Republican congressional leaders.
The consultant also criticized the AMA board for circumventing the House of Delegates in setting policy.Delegates heard a previously released report recommending tightening the AMA's policies on corporate partnership in the wake of the 1997 Sunbeam product endorsement debacle. In November a federal judge in Chicago decided the organization would not have to release documents related to its September 1997 settlement with Sunbeam. The company had sued the AMA for backing out of their proposed deal.The organization projected $14.9 million of net income on $256.7 million in revenues for 1999, aided by $20.4 million in expected gains on unbudgeted items, such as real estate sales. On budgeted items, the loss would be $5.5 million.
For 1998, the AMA expects net income of $3.4 million on $239.7 million in revenues, including $18.4 million from real estate sales in Chicago and Washington.
Docs vs. HMOsDelegates backed any federal and state legislation that would establish limits on retroactive denials of claims.They asked the AMA to develop a policy that makes medical directors of insurance entities liable for "negligent" decisions and to make a "high priority" of pushing for such federal legislation or regulation.They approved pursuing "all necessary means" to modify, reduce or eliminate the insurance industry's antitrust exemption. They also referred to the AMA's board of trustees a decision on whether to support litigation or legislation that would allow physicians to collectively negotiate with third-party payers.
The fedsDelegates asked the AMA to investigate and challenge the authority of federal agents-"especially armed agents"--to obtain patient information without a warrant.They pushed the association to "respond vigorously" to public statements that accuse a physician of Medicare billing fraud when the doctor made an inadvertent billing mistake.
You don't know Jack (Kevorkian)Delegates spoke out against physician-assisted suicide.
DrugsThe AMA joined five specialty societies for a project called Quality Care Alert, which will send doctors information regarding clinical developments.