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The American Medical Association (AMA) introduced its Recovery Plan for America’s Physicians at a recent meeting of its House of Delegates. The new five-point plan aims to support practices that are still struggling due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the goals outlined in this new plan will help support dermatologists and other specialists as well. Here’s what we can expect.

Reforming Medicare payment

Medicare physician payments are the only component of the health care system subject to budget neutrality and have fallen 20%, adjusted for inflation, since 2001. This puts tremendous pressure on physician practices to stay afloat. To help practices survive and hopefully thrive, the AMA is calling for reforms that will predictably update physician payments to reflect inflation.

Stopping scope creep

Scope creep refers to non-physician scope of practice expansion efforts. The AMA and the American Academy of Dermatology believe that nurse practitioners (NPs), physician assistants (PAs), and other physician extenders are a valuable part of a physician-led team. Generally, organizations representing NPs, PAs, and other providers have not vocally supported legislation that seeks to curtail scope of practice. In the coming years, this will play out at the state level.

Fixing prior authorization

The AMA says it hopes to put patients before paperwork. Fully 93% of physicians reported that hurdles imposed by prior authorization negatively impact patient care, and dermatologists, who prescribe biologics to treat psoriasis or other inflammatory diseases, are all too familiar with this burdensome process. To ease things up, AMA proposes:

  • Working with payers to reduce the overall volume of prior authorizations
  • Increasing transparency on requirements
  • Promoting automation

Reducing physician burnout

Physician burnout was on the rise before the COVID-19 pandemic and has only become more prevalent in its wake. To counteract burnout, the AMA is calling for the development of resources that prioritize well-being and improve workflow so physicians can focus on patients, not paperwork.

Passage of The Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act is a big win. This federal law funds mental health education and awareness campaigns that aim to protect the well-being of health care workers. It was named for Dr. Breen, the emergency room director at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, who died by suicide in 2020 after being overwhelmed from working on the front lines of the pandemic.

Expand telemedicine

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services made changes to ensure parity for telehealth payment rates during the initial phases of the pandemic. Telemedicine is here to stay, and the AMA is now fighting to update laws and regulations permanently, as well as incorporate these changes through the RUC process. The RVS Update Committee or RUC is a volunteer group of physicians and other health care professionals who advise Medicare on how to value a physician’s work.

Keep tabs on the changes proposed by the AMA; follow #fightingfordocs to find commentary on the recovery plan on social media.

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