The American Academy of Family Physicians' Congress of Delegates meets in Denver next week to elect new leaders and consider the adoption of dozens of resolutions.
One of those resolutions calls for expanded use of the anti-overdose drug Narcan, as well as support for laws protecting individuals who administer Narcan from being prosecuted for practicing medicine without a license.
A resolution on climate change asks the AAFP to support public policies that limit and monitor the use of fossil fuels. Another resolution will examine “discriminatory policing” and the use of excessive force as serious public health issues, while yet another calls for a study on how urban gentrification affects the health of residents in poor minority communities.
Dr. John Meigs, chief of staff for 25-bed Bibb Medical Center in Centreville, Ala., serves as speaker of the AAFP's policy-making body. He said family medicine and public health are a natural fit.
“Family physicians, just by the nature of who we are and what we do, are uniquely positioned to take on population health and preventive medicine,” Meigs said. “We can see the big picture, and we don't isolate ourselves to one body part or organ system. We look at the person as a whole and the community as a whole.”
Meigs acknowledged that, when addressing these issues among the AAFP's diverse membership, sharp political divides are often revealed. But he said the group always reaches a consensus.
In recent years, a major point of contention has been the AAFP's participation in the American Medical Association's Specialty Society Relative Value Scale Update Committee. The panel, also known as RUC, recommends physician payment levels to the CMS.
“We disagree with the RUC a significant percentage of the time, and think the RUC is structured in such a way that the procedural specialists have more influence than we think is justified,” Meigs said. “But after much soul-searching and discussion, we decided that we're better off being at the table, voicing our objections and being a thorn in the side of the group than if we got up and left.”
There are no RUC-related resolutions on the agenda this year. Nor are there any discussions planned related to the Medicare sustainable growth-rate payment formula, which was repealed in April and has been a top priority of the AAFP for a decade.
Meigs said now the academy's greater concern is graduate medical education.
“We have to make sure we have enough training spots for primary-care and family physicians—we also need more general surgeons and psychiatrists,” Meigs said. “How their training is funded is an issue, and we're trying to bring some reality to a system that's a bit flawed at present.”
Also on the docket are resolutions calling for simplified maintenance of certification processes, a “less burdensome” patient-centered medical home model for small practices, and monitoring Medicare Advantage plans for cost-shifting and reduced enrollee benefits.
The current president-elect, Dr. Wanda Filer of York, Pa., will assume the role of president at the meeting, taking over from Dr. Robert Wergin of Milford, Neb., who will become chairman of the AAFP board of directors.
With almost 121,000 physician and medical-student members, the AAFP is the third-largest medical society. Only the 232,000-member American Medical Association and the 143,000-member American College of Physicians internal medicine specialty society are larger.