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ACR President Stresses Crucial Need for Rheumatologist Representation in AMA

The American College of Rheumatology (ACR)’s membership with the American Medical Association (AMA) will undergo a 5-year review in 2017, and according to ACR President Sharad Lakhanpal, MBBS, MD, it is essential that the ACR maintains its role in America’s biggest and most visible physician society.

In an article published by The Rheumatologist, Dr Lakhanpal said that although rheumatology is a small subspecialty in the medical field, the AMA’s large platform can be used as a means to strengthen the voice of the rheumatology community.

“For 170 years, the AMA has brought together specialty societies and state medical associations as the House of Medicine, working to create a healthier future for patients. This includes, recently, partnering with the ACR to create a set of 21 principles for prior authorization reform—just one example of the organization’s work helping rheumatol­ogists,” he said.

Maintaining a Presence in the AMA House of Delegates

Having a role in the AMA grants the ACR access to the AMA House of Delegates (HOD), as well as a host of committees, including the Current Procedural Terminology Advisory Committee and the Relative Update Committee. Maintaining a seat in the AMA HOD requires the involvement of >1000 members from the ACR; however, according to Dr Lakhanpal, the ACR falls short of that required member threshold, and risks losing its role with the AMA as a result.

“We cannot afford to be sidelined and lose our voice at this critical juncture. We must protect our members and our subspecialty, as well as our patients’ access to care. I am asking ACR members to join the AMA or renew your membership. We should also encourage our friends and colleagues to join or renew their membership in 2017,” he explained.

“There’s an old saying that if you don’t have a seat at the table, you may be on the menu. Let’s protect our seat at the AMA HOD table by having a thriving and active membership in the AMA,” Dr Lakhanpal added.

The significance of being a part of the AMA HOD lies primarily in its position as the “policy-making arm” of the association. HOD consists of delegates from across the country who represent upward of 170 specialty groups, including the ACR. Currently, there are 2 delegates representing the ACR in the AMA HOD, as well as an alternate delegate and a young physician representative. At each of the 2 annual meetings held by the AMA HOD, the ACR’s delegates bring forth ≥1 resolutions for the AMA to consider adding to the association’s policies.

Together with the AMA HOD, RheumPAC, and the ACR’s Government Affairs Committee, the ACR has seen the successful achievement of multiple high-priority efforts, including:

  • The exemption of small rheumatology practices from certain sections of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act
  • Obstructing execution of the Medicare Part B Demonstration Project
  • Addressing marketplace issues, restricted distribution systems, and delays in the FDA generic drug approvals process that lead to drug shortages and price hikes
  • Furthering efforts to stop electronic health record vendors from blocking clinical data
  • Reinforcing the AMA’s policy regarding electronic record interoperability, costs, and penalties associated with meaningful use criteria.

Additional Benefits of AMA Membership

Dr Lakhanpal went on to discuss how an AMA membership can benefit rheumatologists on a more personal level.

“I have renewed my AMA membership for 2017 and encourage my fellow rheumatologists to renew their memberships as well. Apart from shaping public policy and initiatives that benefit the practice of rheumatology as a whole, membership in the AMA has significant benefits for individual practitioners. To start with, a portion of your AMA dues may be considered tax deductible as a business expense, although you should check with a CPA [certified public accountant] to be certain,” he said.

Membership dues for the AMA vary (ranging from $20 for first-year students to $420 for reputable practitioners), and yield access to benefits and discounts that may actually help in saving members money beyond the cost of their annual dues. Such member benefits include eligibility for discounts on myriad life, health, dental, disability, home, and automobile insurance policy plans; discounts in the purchasing, leasing, or renting of a vehicle; and refinancing of student loans at a lower rate.

In addition, AMA members have access to exclusive continuing medical education activities, volunteer or short-term paid opportunities, and various publications.

Members of the ACR can start or renew their AMA membership online at https://commerce.ama-assn.org/membership/, or via phone by calling 800-262-3211. Dr Lakhanpal also requested that current members of the AMA vote for rheumatology, and for the ACR to represent them in the AMA HOD.

“This confirms to the AMA that members want to be counted toward rheumatology’s seat at the table.... If you value having a voice in the decision-making process and if you want to protect the ACR’s representation in the AMA House of Delegates, then I encourage you to join me in American Medical Association membership,” he said.

“Only by having as many AMA members as possible can we speak with a loud voice and protect our patients, practice, and specialty,” Dr Lakhanpal concluded.

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