Increasing our specialty’s influence through the AMA policy body


By Andrew Lazar, MD

Dermatology is well-represented in the American Medical Association House of Delegates — (AMA HOD) the AMA’s primary organizational and health care policy deliberative body. The AMA HOD meets twice a year to review hundreds of proposed reports and resolutions that, if approved, become official AMA policy. The American Academy of Dermatology, the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery Association, and the American College of Mohs Surgery and the Society for Investigative Dermatology are all officially represented in the AMA HOD, and together we have seven votes.

Together, with a provisional delegate from the American Society of Dermatopathology and several individual dermatologists representing state delegations and the federal services, representatives from each of these groups comprise the Section Council on Dermatology and deliberate regarding the issues before the House, determine a position, and usually vote as one to increase the specialty’s influence. At its annual meeting in June, the AMA HOD considered a number of resolutions of importance to dermatology.

The House adopted new policies that support skin cancer prevention by advocating for permitting sunscreen in schools and supporting mechanisms for the education of lay professionals, such as hairdressers and barbers, on self-skin examination to encourage early skin cancer referrals to qualified health care professionals.

As a Section Council, we helped develop the policy that supports the exemption of sunscreen from over-the-counter medication possession bans in schools and encourages all schools to allow students to bring and possess sunscreen at school, without restriction and without requiring physician authorization. The Section Council believed it was important to add language that wouldn’t require physician authorization and advocated to remove any language that would compromise patient safety by encouraging schools to provide sunscreen, which we thought could create various liability concerns.

Other policies relating to the Affordable Care Act are now in place that we also supported on behalf of our memberships, including replacement of Medicare’s sustainable growth rate formula with a range of payment models that would allow physicians to choose which options would work best for their patients, practices, specialties, and regions. The policies that were adopted are in line with the Academy’s focus to help create physician-led practice models, while maintaining fee-for-service and private practice as viable health care models. Members of the Section Council spoke on the House floor in support of a resolution that requires the AMA to clearly define its position on the Affordable Care Act by communicating its support for private contracting and the repeal and replacement of the SGR formula, as well as its opposition to the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).

I cannot stress enough the importance of our specialty’s involvement in the AMA. The HOD is the only forum where all major physician groups are represented and have the opportunity to present and debate issues openly. In order to secure our specialties voice through our delegates, it’s important to have as many members of the AAD also be members of the AMA. I encourage you to become an AMA member or continue your involvement by renewing your membership.

Andrew Lazar, MD, is in practice in Washington, D.C. He has served as vice president for the AAD, as well as chair of the AAD Advisory Board and the chair of the Continuing Medical Education Program Review Committee. He is also the chair of the Dermatology Section Council of the American Medical Association and is the author of 28 publications.

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