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ASH's Relationship with the AMA

Special message from Dr. Gamini Soori, ASH Delegate to the AMA House of Delegates

Dear Fellow ASH Member

For many years, ASH and the American Medical Association (AMA) have enjoyed a productive and valuable relationship at the national level: however, ASH’s continued AMA representation is contingent upon a minimum required percentage of ASH members also holding AMA membership at the individual level.

This is where we need your help.

Strong and effective representation with the AMA is advantageous to both ASH and AMA. Your AMA membership is the bedrock to our advocating for hematology’s professional interests at the AMA national level. Today ASH members’ concurrent membership in AMA is so low that we are perilously close to losing ASH’s voice and vote at the AMA.

This letter is a strong plea to each ASH member to begin or continue your individual AMA membership, and to recruit colleagues to join the AMA this year. Below are examples of AMA work that is important to hematology, hematologists, and people with blood diseases and disorders.

AMA House of Delegates

Since early in its history, AMA has been governed in part by AMA House of Delegates (HOD) deliberations. HOD functions as a legislature in determining AMA policy. State medical societies are entitled to provide delegates to HOD, as are medical specialty societies like ASH, as long as they maintain adequate AMA membership. HOD policy debates include public health, healthcare services reimbursements, physician practice and medical education, among other key areas. 

AMA’s role in organizing coding and payment

HOD may be the AMA’s best-known role in organized medicine, but not the only one. By virtue of its HOD membership, ASH is represented in two deliberative bodies whose work is essential to physician and hospital payment: Current Procedural Terminology Advisory Committee (CPT) and Relative Value Scale Update Committee (RUC). AMA’s board selects a CPT Editorial Panel that creates, deletes, and modifies all CPT-codified services, the required nomenclature for all outpatient healthcare transactions in the US. Our position gives ASH members appointed as CPT advisors the opportunity to comment on proposals for new codes, either supporting the creation of codes for new services (e.g. molecular testing) or discouraging the creation of codes for technologies that have not demonstrated efficacy. ASH’s role is similar in RUC, but focuses on recommendations that help to determine Medicare payments for these services: this often determines the payment for private insurers. ASH’s RUC participation demonstrates the value of hematologic services and ensures appropriate payment for hematology services.

AMA’s work organizing government relations

AMA also serves a significant role in organized medicine’s government-relations role. AMA hosts frequent meetings with regulators, allowing for face-to-face discussions between federal decision-makers and specialty-society government-relations staffs. ASH staff consistently participates in these important meetings.

AMA also helps to develop legislative and policy strategy on issues with wide agreement among the medical professionals, allowing ASH to focus on issues that are most important to hematology. For example, AMA has led efforts to resolve issues related to bonuses/penalties associated with meaningful use of health-information technology. Recently, implementation of program standards were delayed, so comparatively few physicians will be penalized. AMA also spearheads ongoing attempts to eliminate the Sustainable Growth Rate formula that threatens physician Medicare payment rates every year. 

At such a pivotal time in the evolution of medical care in this country, ASH can ill afford to lose its voice and influence in AMA policy-development at the national level. Please renew, resume or initiate your own individual AMA membership, and encourage your colleagues to do the same.