You may not believe this, but at the recent American Medical Association (AMA) annual meeting, radiology secured two huge victories. First, the AMA disagreed with the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendations and came out in support of a woman’s right to have mammograms starting at age 40, urging continued insurance coverage.
Second, the AMA supported radiology’s opposition to the proposed Multiple Procedure Payment Reduction (MPPR) plan, which right now only potentially impacts radiology and no other specialty. Why would the AMA do that? As it turns out, the AMA isn’t the stodgy monolith you think it is; it’s a representational democracy, plain and simple.
We’ve long heard that the AMA is really only for primary care doctors, mainly cardiologists and others who are often unsympathetic toward radiologists’ issues. The simple truth is that if more radiologists were AMA members, radiology would have more votes in the AMA House of Delegates. In fact, if all radiologists were AMA members, we would be the largest voting bloc in the whole organization!
As it is, we try to make headway with a meager six votes for the American College of Radiology (from a possible 30 or more), along with a team of delegates from other radiologic societies that have seats in the AMA, including the Society of Interventional Radiology, Association of
University Radiologists, RSNA, American Roentgen Ray Society, American Society of Neuroradiology, American College of Radiation Oncology, American Society for Radiation Oncology and Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging.
Although this coalition accomplished the recent mammography and MPPR wins, just think of what we could accomplish if every radiologist joined and we had five times the current representation! And while there is a radiologist on the AMA Board of Trustees, it has been more than 15 years since a radiologist has been president of the AMA.
If you are a fulltime practicing radiologist, the AMA has made you hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past six years through its repeated action on the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR). Radiology could not have accomplished that alone— we needed a federation of physicians to
get there. The AMA’s weight behind our advocacy on issues like women’s access to mammography gives us more credibility and will help us get other important issues across the finish line.
And there’s more! The AMA convenes and supports the Relative Value Scale Update Committee (RUC), a Congressionally mandated committee that advises CMS on the relative value of all services in medicine, including imaging. The AMA also oversees the Current Procedural Terminology® (CPT) Editorial Panel, which establishes the universal language for all codes and is fundamental to the reimbursement process. It is because of our AMA involvement that the ACR has a voice at the RUC and CPT and is advocating on your behalf.
Regardless of where you stand on “Obamacare,” there are parts that raise concern: For example, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), with its power to unilaterally reduce Medicare payments, represents a significant threat to reimbursement, and radiology is no less vulnerable than other specialties. We need the AMA to stand with us as we face these and other challenges.
Of course, you won’t agree with everything the AMA does, but it is wrong to decide against joining the AMA in protest. You need to be a part of the process. Your radiology delegates are your voice and the voice of your patients. You and they need to be heard!
Please join today at www.ama-assn.org/go/membership. Make sure that radiology gets credit for your membership by casting your specialty ballot (www.ama-assn/go/ballot). There is a lot at stake—not only for you, your practice and radiology, but most importantly for your patients.
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