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When Push Comes to Shove: The AMA v. Dobbs. Part 2.

BY MIKE MAGEE

On November 8, 2022, five days after the 2022 Midterm elections, the AMA raised its voice in opposition to Republican efforts to promote second class citizenship for women by exerting public control over them and their doctors intensely private reproductive decisions. At the same time they sprinkled candidates on both sides of the aisle with AMA PAC money, raising questions whether their love of women includes active engagement or just passive advocacy.

Trump and his now MAGAGA (“Make America Great and Glorious Again”) movement has now returned to center stage. With the help of Senate Majority leader McConnell, Christian Conservatives had packed the Supreme Court with Justices committed to over-turning Roe v. Wade. And they did just that.

On June 24, 2022, a Supreme Court, dominated by five conservative Catholic-born Justices, in what experts declared “a historic and far-reaching decision,” Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, scuttled the half-century old right to abortion law, Roe v. Wade, writing that it had been “egregiously wrong,” “exceptionally weak” and “an abuse of judicial authority.”

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When Push Comes to Shove: The AMA v. Dobbs. Part 1.

BY MIKE MAGEE

Should anyone present know of any reason that this couple should not be joined in holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace.”     Book of Common Prayer, Church of England, 1549

Last evening Trump rose from the ashes and declared it was time to “Make America Great and Glorious Again” (MAGAGA).

This past week, five days after the Midterm elections, AMA President, Jack Resnick, Jr., MD, raised his voice from the podium at the AMA Interim Meeting in Hawaii with the AMA’s own version of a call to action:

But make no mistake, when politicians insert themselves in our exam rooms to interfere with the patient-physician relationship, when they politicize deeply personal health decisions, or criminalize evidence-based care, we will not back down…I never imagined colleagues would find themselves tracking down hospital attorneys before performing urgent abortions, when minutes count … asking if a 30% chance of maternal death, or impending renal failure, meet the criteria for the states exemptions … or whether they must wait a while longer, until their pregnant patient gets even sicker…Enough is enough. We cannot allow physicians or our patients to become pawns in these lies.”

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Mike Magee’s Advice to the AMA on Reversal of Roe vs. Wade

BY MIKE MAGEE

Stable, civic societies are built upon human trust and confidence. If you were forced to rebuild a society, leveled by warfare and devastation, where would you begin? This is the question the U.S. Army faced at the close of WW II, specifically when it came to rebuilding Germany and Japan, hopefully into stable democracies. The Marshall Plan answered the question above, and its success in choosing health services as a starting point was well documented by many in the years to come, including the RAND Corporation. Their summary in 2007 said in part, “Nation-building efforts cannot be successful unless adequate attention is paid to the health of the population.” 

They began with services for women and children, the very location that a splinter of politicians and Supreme Court Justices has targeted, replacing entrusted doctors with partisan bureaucrats in an approach so obviously flawed that it forced a course correction a half-century ago in the form of Roe v. Wade.

The practice of Medicine is complex. Ideally it requires knowledge, skills, supportive infrastructure, proximity and presence. But most of all, it requires trust, especially in moments of urgency, with lives at stake, when an individual, and family, and community are all on high alert. When time is of the essence, and especially if one or more people are trying to make the right decision for two, rather than one life, decisions are impossibly personal and complex.

This was widely recognized by most physicians, including those most devout and conservative nationwide in the troubling years leading up to Roe v. Wade. As recently as 1968, the membership of the Christian Medical Society refused to endorse a proclamation that labeled abortion as sinful. In 1971, America’s leading conservative religious organization, the Southern Baptist Convention, went on record as encouraging its members “to work for legislation that would allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.” In 1973, both the Southern Baptist Convention and the Christian Medical Society chose not to actively oppose the Supreme Court ruling against a Texas law prohibiting abortion known as Roe v. Wade, and reaffirmed that position in 1974 and 1976.

What they recognized was that the nation’s social capital, its political stability and security, relied heavily on the compassion, understanding and partnership engendered in the patient-physician relationship. As most doctors saw it, what possible good could come from putting politicians in the middle of such complicated, emotion-ridden, and highly personal decisions?

The American Medical Association’s prepared reaction to the June 24, 2022, reversal to Roe v. Wade was direct and immediate. They labeled the decision “an egregious allowance of government intrusion into the medical examination room, a direct attack on the practice of medicine and the patient-physician relationship…” Their president, Jack Resneck Jr. M.D. went further to say, “…the AMA condemns the high courts interpretation in this case. We will always have physiciansbacks and defend the practice of medicine, we will fight to protect the patient-physician relationship..” But what exactly does that mean?

Approaching 75, and a lifelong member of the American Medical Association, I expect I know the AMA, its history as well as its strengths and weaknesses, as well as anyone. Aside from having deep personal relationships with many of the Board of Trustees over the years (some of whom quietly continue to contact me for advice), I have studied the evolution of the patient-physician relationship in six countries over a span of forty years.

Those who know me well, and who have pushed back against my critique of the organization, know that my intentions are honorable and that the alarms that I sound reflect my belief that, for our profession to survive as noble, self-governing, and committed above all to the patients who allow us to care for them, we must have a national organization with reach into every American town and city, and official representation in every state, and every specialty.

My concern today, despite the strong messaging from Chicago, is that the AMA and its members have not fully absorbed that this is a “mission-critical” moment in the organization’s history. It is also an opportunity to purposefully flex its muscles, expand its membership, and reinforce its priorities. The strong words, without actions to back them up, I believe, will permanently seal the AMA’s fate, and challenge Medicine’s status as a “profession.”

Here are five actions that I believe the AMA should take immediately to make it clear that physicians stand united with our patients, in partnership with nurses and other health professionals, and that the actions of last week can not and will not stand.

  1. The AMA should pull all financial support for all Republican candidates through the 2022 elections.
  2. The AMA should actively encourage physician “civil disobedience” where appropriate to protect the health and well being of all women, regardless of age, race, sexual identity, religion, or economic status.
  3. The AMA should convene, under the auspices of its’ General Counsel, Andra K. Heller, a formal strategy meeting with the legal counsels of all state and specialty medical societies to formulate an aggressive legal approach to minimize the damage of the recent Supreme Court action.
  4. The AMA should actively promote AMA volunteers to help provide a full range of women’s health care services at federal institutions and on federal land, and stand up information sites that coordinate travel and expenses should inter-state travel be required for care access.
  5. The AMA should immediately make clear that any restriction of prescribing authority of medications in support of women’s health care, including contraceptive medications and devices, and Plan B treatments will result in a coordinated nationwide disruption of health services.

Mike Magee MD is a Medical Historian and the author of “CODE BLUE: Inside the Medical-Industrial Complex.”

A Missed Opportunity for Universal Healthcare

Connie Chan
Phuoc Le

By PHUOC LE, MD and CONNIE CHAN

The United States is known for healthcare spending accounting for a large portion of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) without yielding the corresponding health returns. According to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), healthcare spending made up 17.7% ($3.6 trillion) of the GDP in the U.S. in 2018 – yet, poor health outcomes, including overall mortality, remain higher compared to other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. According to The Lancet, enacting a single-payer UHC system would likely result in $450 billion in savings in national healthcare and save more than 68,000 lives.

Figure 1. Mortality rate in the US versus other OECD countries.

The expansion of Medicaid under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) was not the first attempt the United States government made to increase the number of people with health insurance. In 1945, the Truman administration introduced a Universal Health Care (UHC) plan. Many Americans with insurance insecurity, most notably Black Americans and poor white Americans, would benefit from this healthcare plan. During this time, health insurance was only guaranteed for those with certain jobs, many of which Blacks and poor white Americans were unable to secure at the time, which resulted in them having to pay out-of-pocket for any wanted healthcare services. This reality pushed Truman to propose UHC within the United States because it would allow “all people and communities [to] use the promotive, preventative, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services they need of sufficient quality…, while also ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardship.”

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The AMA’s Digital Health Investment Fund | Andrew Elkind & Stas Sokolin, Health2047

By JESSICA DAMASSA, WTF HEALTH

The American Medical Association (AMA) announced Health 2047, its accelerator and investment fund in 2018. A year later, Andrew Elkind and Stas Sokolin, both Principals at the fund, stop by to get us up-to-speed on the progress the AMA has made so far with its $45 million accelerator fund and $30 million investment fund. What kinds of health tech startups are piquing the attention of this physician-led fund? Get the details behind the Health 2047 investment thesis here!

THCB Spotlight: Jesse Ehrenfeld, AMA

By ZOYA KHAN

Today, we are featuring Dr. Jesse Ehrenfeld from the American Medical Association (AMA) on THCB Spotlight. Matthew Holt interviews Dr. Ehrenfeld, Chair-elect of the AMA Board of Trustees and an anesthesiologist with the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. The AMA has recently released their Digital Health Implementation Playbook, which is a guide to adopting digital health solutions. They also launched a new online platform called the Physician Innovation Network to help connect physicians with entrepreneurs and developers. Watch the interview to find out more about how the AMA is supporting health innovation, as well as why the AMA thinks the CVS-Aetna merger is not a good idea and how the AMA views the role of AI in the future of health care.

Zoya Khan is the Editor-in-Chief of THCB as well as an Associate at SMACK.health, a health-tech advisory services for early-stage startups.

Health in 2 Point 00 Episode 55

We missed our chance to do a Happy Hour Health in 2 Point 00 at Connected Health in Boston (but let’s be honest, those are usually not the most cogent pieces of information in health and technology). Join Jessica DaMassa as she gets my take on the conference starting with #S4PM’s event, where I met some incredible people, including Patty Brennan and Doug Lindsey, who spoke about their experiences with health care knowledge (deploying it and creating it!). Danny Sands and e-Patient Dave even had quite the musical performance there, singing about e-Patient blues. Susannah Fox, Don Berwick, Don Norman were at Connected Health 18, presenting their new initiative, L.A.U.N.C.H. I even interviewed Jesse Ehrenfeld, the chair elect of AMA, and his spoke to him about the digital health play book that the AMA just released. A company to take note of that wasn’t at #CHC is Devoted Health, who just raised $300m. Devoted is looking at building a better Medicare Advantage “payvider” for seniors. If you are interested in Guild Serendipity’s conference which empowers and engages female CEOs and Cofounders, come join us in San Francisco October 26-27, SMACK.health is sponsoring the women’s health houses – Matthew Holt

AMA to Health Tech: Call a Doctor

“That’s why we’re investing so heavily in the innovation space…we look at physicians and how they’re spending their days. The amount of time they’re spending clicking away on their EHRs, wasting time – we think we can help fix it. It’s been a lot of years of other people not fixing it. We think it’s time for physicians to actually be in the rooms helping to make those solutions.” — Dr. Jack Resneck, Chairman of the Board, AMA

Sounds to me like physicians are a little disappointed in health tech. Don’t get me wrong. This is not another ‘digital health snake oil’ controversy. (Although we do go there…)

Instead, my main takeaway from this conversation with Dr. Jack Resneck, Chairman of the Board for the AMA, is that physicians don’t exactly feel included or engaged in the tech revolution happening in healthcare.

In short, while docs are excited about innovation, it seems they don’t feel heard. So much so that the AMA has created its own Silicon Valley-based ‘business formation and commercialization enterprise’ called Health2047 to prioritize solution development for what physicians have deemed the biggest systemic issues in healthcare. What’s out there is just missing the mark and, in more instances than not, says Dr. Resneck, the practicing physician’s perspective on what problems need to be solved in the first place.

I open this interview by asking what digital health entrepreneurs and health tech startups can do to work more effectively with physicians. The answer, it seems, might be as simple as ‘just ask your doctor.’

Get a glimpse of the future of healthcare by meeting the people who are going to change it. Find more WTF Health interviews here or check out www.wtf.health

Health in 2 point 00 — Episode 12

Jessica DaMassa asks me about the AMA & digital snake oil, Israel investing in Digital Health, and the budget impact on CSRs & Obamacare in today’s edition of Health in 2 point 00 — Matthew Holt

Misunderestimating the AMA

CMS just released their proposed MACRA regs (Cliff Notes version), and as you could expect, every specialty society and interested party dug in and critiqued.  The rule runs a thousand pages and will have a substantial effect on the future of provider payment.  In case, you have not heard.

Each organization will cut their sections of interest out, parse them, synthesize their analysis, and return a long letter to CMS. They will offer the correct paths on which the agency should proceed–lest they go forward uninformed taking down entire blocks of the healthcare system on account of willful neglect and ignorance.  The letters will start with a friendly salutation along the lines of, “We commend the Secretary on her wisdom and hard work….BUT, we have an eensy weensy problem on some issues,” and so the turn goes.

The inpatient docs will hit the rough patches as they relate to fitting hospital-based practitioners into an outpatient focused model; the nephrologists will sound off on integrating dialysis payments within a medical home; the surgeons will focus on attribution of adverse post-op events weeks after patients leave the hospital; and the pathologists will just throw their hands up and say, “huh, should we just skip this party.”

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