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Sermo Wars with AMA Over CPT Codes

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, July 9, 2009

"The AMA alone foots the bill. While these expenses are recouped and profits are gained from the sale and licensure of CPT products and information, the AMA uses this income to tackle a sizable agenda on behalf of America's patients and physicians – initiatives such as health insurance coverage for all Americans, Medicare payment reform, relief from unfair managed care business practices and championing important public health issues, to name just a few," she said.

Two years ago, when the relationship began, it was forged as a kind of trade. The AMA News ran ads for Sermo to recruit participants. In exchange Sermo let the AMA access the physicians' online conversation to get feedback from the front lines of medicine, for use in shaping legislative or organizational policies.

Yesterday, the AMA said its board member, Joseph M. Heyman, MD, posted this statement in response to Palestrant's on Sermo July 1.

"We need to set the record straight on the information in Dr. Palestrant's post. The truth is that AMA membership numbers are public information, and there has been no precipitous decline in AMA membership over the last two years, as Dr. Palestrant suggests," Heyman wrote. "With about a quarter million members, the AMA is the largest physician organization in the country, and through the AMA House of Delegates, comprised of elected physician and medical student representatives from all state and national medical specialty societies, it is the only physician organization that gives all physicians a voice in the future of medicine."

"Twice a year the AMA House of Delegates meets to debate and vote on in public the most important policy matters facing medicine today. Last month, for example, the AMA House of Delegates met to vote on key elements of health system reform. It was a vigorous debate that ended with the following declaration of commitment: AMA supports health system reform alternatives consistent with principles of pluralism, freedom of choice, freedom of practice and universal access for patients.

"At that same meeting, President Obama chose to give his major health reform speech to AMA physicians. Not only has President Obama shown that AMA physicians are integral to the health reform process, but a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows that the American people trust physician groups like the AMA to do the right thing on health reform as well."

Heyman said in his post that AMA advocacy is "well documented and unfailing. We are actively engaged to permanently fix the broken Medicare physician payment system and have a big victory on that this week," and continue to work on antitrust, medical liability reforms, a streamlined insurance claims system, and so much more. "As for relationships with insurers, we continue our high-profile fight against insurer abuses that hurt physicians and patients."

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