AMA ushers in new president, familiar priorities

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The American Medical Association closed out its annual meeting Wednesday with a series of resolutions and a new president.

Psychiatrist Jeremy Lazarus, who replaced outgoing president Peter Carmel, a pediatric neurosurgeon. Lazarus, the first psychiatrist to lead the association in 70 years and the first president to hail from Colorado in 90 years, kicked off his tenure Tuesday with remarks that overlapped with those of outgoing Carmel's departing remarks on Saturday.

Among Lazarus' priorities: to increase access to mental health and to help the association preserve the doctor-patient relationship and the integrity (and compensation) of the profession.

“We need to rise up – raise our voices – and sing out on medical liability reform, to end frivolous lawsuits, to end the fear of being dragged into court for no good reason," said Lazarus, "sing out and demand the Sustainable Growth Rate be scrapped and be replaced with a system that recognizes reality and reflects the actual costs of medical care."

His comments echoed those of Carmel, who said: “If Congress wants to improve the healthcare system, why hasn't it eliminated [Sustainable Growth Rate]? Why hasn't Congress instituted meaningful medical liability reform?”

Lazarus also said the community should reward an integrated approach to medicine in which doctors are compensated for their time. As an example he cited the Minnesota Initiative, which pays psychiatrists when they team up with primary care physicians. “The current system discourages this, since specialists are paid for face-to-face visits with patients, but not when they advise the primary care physician,” he said, but noted that Minnesota's Diamond Initiative does encourage such compensation for psychiatrists, and patients have benefited.

The thirteen-time marathon runner's stance that doctors should be patient role models and educators regarding obesity and exercised was further bolstered on Tuesday by the society's vote that stopped short of endorsing a tax on sugary beverages but did support the use of such funds for anti-obesity policies.

The association also voted in favor of the following:
•    A new medical coding system, dubbed ICD-11, because the stalled ICD-10 is too onerous;
•    Working with PBMs over “medically appropriate quantities of formulary medications;”
•    Creation of an HHS drug shortage task force;
•    Insurance coverage for mammograms of women 40 and older;
•    Making it easier to practice medicine in neighboring states
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