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Tuesday Oct 01, 2019

Members Set Course for AAFP at Congress of Delegates

"Oh, I've got to be in the room where it happens."
-- Hamilton

Sarah Woolsey, M.D., M.P.H., a Utah alternate delegate from Salt Lake City, testifies during the Reference Committee on Advocacy hearing in favor of a resolution regarding the need for complete data in all-payer claims databases. The AAFP Congress of Delegates adopted the resolution Sept. 24 in Philadelphia.

Congratulations, Gary LeRoy, M.D.! On Sept. 25, Dr. LeRoy was sworn in as the AAFP's 72nd president. You can learn much more about him and his vision for family medicine in this excellent interview with AAFP News.  

Fall has arrived, which means it was time last week for the Academy's Congress of Delegates and Family Medicine Experience meetings. It was nice to see so many family physicians from across the country. These annual celebrations of family medicine are great opportunities to connect with colleagues, attend world-class CME programs and hear from thought leaders on health care. If you couldn't join us this year in Philadelphia, please make plans to come to FMX 2020 in Chicago.  

The COD, which comprises family physicians from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, and AAFP special constituencies, as well as medical student and resident representatives, is the official policymaking body of the AAFP.

Family physicians who participate in COD proceedings have robust conversations to help shape the future of the nation's health care system. This year, delegates and other participants debated several resolutions focusing on proposals for health system reform such as Medicare for All, Medicare buy-in, Medicare Advantage buy-in and collective bargaining. These are important discussions among delegates, who have a shared goal of forging a better, more equitable health care system, and the work allows the AAFP to have a strong voice in the national debate.

Delegates took on a wide range of important issues that you can read about in AAFP News, but I want to focus this post on just a few of the new policies established by measures adopted by the Congress that will drive AAFP public and private advocacy efforts to support family physicians' practices and the specialty of family medicine.

  • Pharmacy formularies: One resolution delegates adopted focused on the AAFP's top strategic priority of reducing administrative burden by calling on the Academy to petition CMS, as well as all health insurance companies and pharmacy benefits managers, to include all generic medications in their formularies. The resolution also directs the AAFP to press these entities to implement a system that immediately informs a prescribing clinician of all formulary alternatives for any denied medication and provide a mechanism to rapidly appeal the denial.
  • Insurance plan participation and hospital privileges: The Congress called on the AAFP to develop a policy against health insurance companies privileging physicians based solely on their hospital privileges and hospital credentials. Delegates also directed the Academy to engage the major national health insurance companies to develop methods to credential physicians that do not depend on hospital privileges.
  • Scope of care in the hospital setting: Another measure delegates adopted calls on the AAFP to collaborate with the Joint Commission and other appropriate entities to create policy that would have hospitals remove undue barriers and restriction of privileges to hospitals and intensive care units for qualified family physicians who practice hospital medicine.
  • Prompt discharge summaries for Medicare patients: The Congress also directed the AAFP to petition CMS to require hospitals and post-acute care facilities to provide primary care physicians with discharge summaries within seven days to enable physicians to provide the highest-quality transitional care management.
  • Insurance coverage for acupuncture treatment for chronic pain: Another measure the Congress adopted calls for the AAFP to develop a new policy supporting insurance coverage of acupuncture for pain control when it is ordered by a licensed physician or a licensed collaborating advanced-practice clinician on the physician's practice team.
  • Data completeness and family medicine: Another resolution directs the AAFP to expand its current work aimed at creating and implementing all-payer claims databases to include support for a pilot program, to be run by the Department of Labor, that would collect health care claims data in cooperation with state all-payer claims databases.

The 2019 Congress of Delegates considered dozens of other resolutions on a variety of topics; this is a brief summary of a small subset of that work. These adopted measures set policies that align with the AAFP's strategic plan. If they are successfully implemented in laws or regulations, they will have a positive impact on family physicians, their practices and their patients.

In addition to its policy-developing work, the Congress of Delegates selected Ada Stewart, M.D., of Columbia, S.C., as president-elect of the Academy. Additionally, the Congress elected three new members to the AAFP Board of Directors: Andrew Carroll, M.D., of Chandler, Ariz.; Steven Furr, M.D., of Jackson, Ala.; and Margot Savoy, M.D., M.P.H., of Newark, Del. Delegates also re-elected Alan Schwartzstein, M.D., of Oregon, Wis., as speaker and Russell Kohl, M.D., of Stilwell, Kan., as vice speaker.

Finally, the Congress also formally confirmed new student Board member Margaret Miller of Johnson City, Tenn.; resident member Kelly Thibert, D.O., M.P.H., of Columbus, Ohio; and new physician member Brent Sugimoto, M.D., M.P.H., of Richmond, Calif. These new Board members were elected earlier this year during the National Conference of Constituency Leaders and the National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students.  

As health care policy moves back to center stage, this group will be busy! I and the full AAFP team look forward to working with the Board, our members and our state chapters on a robust policy agenda in the coming year.

Posted at 10:12AM Oct 01, 2019 by Shawn Martin

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Shawn Martin, AAFP Senior Vice President of Advocacy, Practice Advancement and Policy.

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