August 13, 2015

National Update

How physicians can help break the red tape

Georgia physicians voiced their frustrations with electronic health records (EHR) and the meaningful use program at a recent town hall event hosted by the AMA and the Medical Association of Georgia in Atlanta. Other physicians nationwide watched the event online live and contributed their thoughts as well. Now physicians can share their unique stories, either in written testimonials or by video, at

Physicians can contribute their own real-world meaningful use or EHR stories and watch the town hall event. This new site also has answers to common questions, links to AMA advocacy resources and an easy way for physicians to email their members of Congress and ask them to fix the meaningful use program.

Through these physician stories, the AMA is learning more about how EHRs and meaningful use regulations impact the patient-physician relationship. The AMA is pushing to fix the current program requirements, along with pausing Stage 3. AMA advocacy already has made an impact in recent Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services proposed rules, but much more work needs to be done. Watch AMA Wire® for updates on these efforts.

What CMS is saying about ICD-10: Revised guidelines issued

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is making the transition to the ICD-10 code set more flexible. CMS updated its guidance on the ICD-10 coding transition following requests from the AMA to clarify some issues.

The revised FAQs are consistent with the original announcement and provide added clarity of the term “family of codes.” They also clarify the flexibility pertaining to front-end claims processing, in addition to post-payment audits. Specifically, revisions were made to questions 3 and 5. Read about the revised guidance at AMA Wire.

The AMA also is working with CMS to develop a version of the FAQs that is specifically geared toward physicians. Watch AMA Wire for details about the physician-specific guidance.

CMS will host a call for physicians preparing for ICD-10 from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Eastern time Aug. 27. Experts will discuss last-minute steps to prepare for the transition to the new code set, as well the added flexibility around billing, audits, and quality measure calculations. Physicians are encouraged to register as soon as possible to obtain dial-in details.

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Issue Spotlight

How physicians are leading the fight against opioid overdoses

Opioid overdose is a serious public health problem that has reached crisis levels across the United States, with 44 people dying each day from overdose of prescription opioids, and many more becoming addicted. No community is untouched.

That’s why the AMA has convened a task force with the American Osteopathic Association, the American Dental Association, and more than 20 state and specialty medical associations to work collaboratively to address the opioid public health epidemic by identifying best practices and implementing them across the country.

“This epidemic is complex, and the remedy won’t be simple. It will require a sustained, comprehensive approach,” said Patrice A. Harris, MD, chair-elect of the AMA Board of Trustees, in an AMA Viewpoints post. “As a group, we have developed a strong roadmap that we hope will bring America’s physicians, other health care professionals and patients together as partners on the path to eliminating this public health epidemic.”

The task force’s initial focus is on steps physicians can take now to help their patient populations:

The AMA also is calling on states to make sure their PDMPs are truly valuable tools. These databases need to protect patient privacy, contain relevant and reliable data, allow care teams to seamlessly integrate that data into their work flows, and enable data sharing across state lines.

Robert Rich, MD, chair of the American Academy of Family Physicians Commission on Health of the Public and Science and the academy's representative on the task force, stressed the importance of useful PDMPs.

“I practice in a state that has had a functioning PDMP for several years, and on more than one occasion, I have been surprised by the information contained in that PDMP,” Dr. Rich said in a news release. “[That includes] the patient who was obtaining opioid pain relievers from several providers in violation of my pain contract with that patient as well as the patient that I was convinced was obtaining opioids from several providers but who was compliant with the terms of their pain contract when the PDMP was accessed on serial visits.”

Addiction medicine specialist Richard Soper, MD, who represents the American Society of Addiction Medicine on the task force, echoed Dr. Rich’s comments.

“The help of every clinician in every treatment setting is needed to help bring an end to this public health epidemic,” Dr. Soper said in a news release. “The sad truth is that every death related to opioid misuse could have been prevented with effective treatment. In forming this task force, the AMA takes a leadership role in [preventing] the devastating consequences associated with the disease of addiction.”

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State Update

9 key health care issues states may face in 2016

More than 100 national, state and specialty society lobbyists, general counsel, health policy experts and key staff gathered recently to exchange information and strategies on critical state health care issues, and participate in an informal format that supports open dialogue and idea-sharing.

The 9 items that came up for discussion at the AMA State Advocacy Roundtable Conference included:

Staff in the AMA Advocacy Resource Center moderated the sessions and discussed how AMA model legislation, national data and other key resources could be adapted for state- and specialty-specific needs.

For more information about the issues discussed, visit the AMA Advocacy Resource Center Web page or contact AMA staff (log in).

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Other News

AMPAC Federation meeting room block closes Monday

State society political action committee (PAC) chairs and directors are invited to the annual AMPAC Federation meeting in Washington, D.C., Sept. 17-18 at the Grand Hyatt Washington.

The program will take place on Sept. 17 and the morning of Sept. 18. AMPAC encourages attendees to schedule meetings with their members of Congress for Sept. 17, preferably in the morning. Capitol Hill visits will be followed by lunch and fundraising training, discussion of innovative state programs, and a preview of the 2016 elections. The evening of Sept. 17 will feature a reception in honor of the guests.

The room block has been arranged for a Sept. 16 arrival and Sept. 18 departure. AMPAC will reimburse PAC directors and PAC chairs for two hotel nights each at the room block rate of $279. The room block now is open—make your reservation soon because the block closes Aug. 17.

Please direct any questions to Jim Wilson of the AMA.

Register for Aug. 26 webinar on the Veterans Choice Program

Hear from leading U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) officials on new community-based care options for VA beneficiaries in an AMA-hosted webinar from 7 to 8 p.m. Eastern time Aug. 26. Register now.

The webinar will discuss how the VA is relying on private practitioners as a short-term solution to delivery problems and workforce shortages. Participants will hear how non-VA physicians can sign up to deliver care through the Veterans Choice Program, understand the criteria for participation and learn how to troubleshoot claims processing issues and payment delays.

Read more about the Veterans Choice Program at AMA Wire.

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Upcoming Events

Voice your concerns: While most physicians have adopted electronic health records, usability issues have made them burdensome, and many physicians haven’t been able to meet meaningful use requirements. Share your story online, watch a video of real physicians discussing their own issues with the program and email your members of Congress at

August 26:
Register for an AMA-hosted webinar from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from 7-8 p.m. Eastern time Aug. 26. Leading VA officials will discuss new community-based care options for VA, including how non-VA providers can sign up to deliver care through the Veterans Choice Program.

Feb. 19-21:
Sign up for the 2016 AMPAC Candidate Workshop, which prepares those considering a run for public office. For more information or to apply, please see the online registration form or email Jim Wilson of the AMA.

April 13-17:
Register for the 2016 AMPAC Campaign School, which is for AMA members who wish to become involved in the political process as advocates and volunteers for medicine-friendly candidates. For more information or to apply, please see the online registration form or email Jim Wilson of the AMA.

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