May 13, 3:15 p.m. News Staff — Aftershocks from the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on family medicine rippled through the resolutions acted upon by the Reference Committee on Advocacy during the virtual 2021 National Conference of Constituency Leaders April 29-May 1. Telehealth pay parity and equitable COVID-19 vaccine distribution factored into the conversation as AAFP members from the five constituency groups — women, minorities, new physicians, international medical graduates, and LGBT physicians and those who support LGBT issues — participated remotely in the reference committee hearing on April 29 and the business session May 1.
Following a landmark year for telemedicine, testimony in the committee was bullish on protecting physician payment after the end of temporary policies enacted during the pandemic. Noting that the original resolution adhered closely to existing AAFP policy and lobbying efforts, the committee recommended that a substitute resolution be prepared.
The resulting substitute resolution, which delegates adopted, called on the AAFP to advocate for payment parity between telehealth and in-person care for new-patient encounters, advocate for policy prohibiting insurance carriers from requiring a covered person seeking telehealth services to have a previously established patient-clinician relationship with a specific clinician, and “study telemedicine reimbursement policies that would encourage and bolster continuity of care.”
Several constituency groups testified that individuals held in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers are at higher risk of disease and death, including from COVID-19.
The committee cited existing AAFP policy on the health impacts of immigration and recent advocacy by the Academy alongside numerous other medical groups in recommending a substitute resolution.
The substitute resolution adopted May 1 called for the AAFP to send a letter to ICE urging “the creation and implementation of a plan for equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines for people detained in ICE detention centers” and to “develop a toolkit and messaging for state chapters” to undertake similar advocacy at the state level.
“Given the time-sensitive nature of this issue, the committee (also) implores the Board to act urgently on this resolution,” the committee reported.
The reference committee heard strong support for a resolution to oppose state legislation banning adolescent transgender care and to offer an advocacy toolkit on the subject, which delegates adopted.
“Member testimony noted the sharp increase in anti-transgender legislation across the states and discussed how these bills are a direct interference in evidence-based care, and the denial of gender-affirming care is linked to adverse outcomes,” the committee reported. Members expressed particular concern that some of the bills “seek to penalize and criminalize physicians for medically necessary care.”
Academy policies and communications cited by the committee included “Infringement on the Patient-Physician Relationship,” Care for the Transgender and Gender Nonbinary Patient and an April 2021 joint statement.
Delegates adopted a resolution calling on the Academy to lobby CMS and commercial insurers to expand their “eligible professional list for Part B providers able to furnish mental health diagnostic and/or behavioral health treatment to include additional mental health professionals including, but not limited to, licensed professional counselors, licensed professional clinical counselor and licensed mental health counselors.”
In expressing their unanimous support of the resolution, members “discussed the shortage of mental health professionals around the country and … shared stories about the uptick in mental health disorders because of the pandemic and how a lack of proper payment for these providers can be a barrier to care for vulnerable patients,” the report said.
Speakers were unanimous in their testimony supporting a resolution meant to maintain the diversity of the Family Medicine Political Action Committee’s board.
Delegates adopted a substitute resolution calling on the AAFP to recommend to the FamMedPAC Board “removal of the criteria that requires applicants to the FamMedPAC Board to disclose the amount of their contribution to the FamMedPAC.”
That criteria, members testified, “can be a barrier and disincentive for individuals to apply, especially for women and people of color who may be at a financial disadvantage.”
Also adopted were resolutions and substitute resolutions urging the AAFP to