Interim 2012 President’s Report: “Honor Traditions, Continue as Leaders”

Addressing the Medical Society’s House of Delegates at its 2012 Interim Meeting on November 30, MMS President Richard Aghababian, M.D., provided members with a quick perspective of the major events in health care that have taken place over the last six months – from the Supreme Court’s affirmation of the Affordable Care Act to Massachusetts’ payment reform bill to ballot questions on medical marijuana and physician-assisted suicide.  Here are some highlights from his President’s Report.

State Payment Reform Bill
“The state payment reform and cost control legislation is complex…and it’s already apparent that some sections will need technical corrections and amendments. We will put special focus on the sections that impose substantial administrative burdens on practices, especially those involving public reporting and provider registration. We also believe the bill may have taken the concept of transparency too far, and we will work to make these requirements more reasonable. The state is also beginning to implement one of the sections of the legislation that we favor the most – the introduction of the Disclosure, Apology and Offer system for medical liability claims.”

Physician Assisted Suicide and Medical Marijuana Ballot Questions
“We implemented a comprehensive education campaign on both issues…Almost every news story on either Question 2 or Question 3 mentioned the position of the Massachusetts Medical Society …We are grateful that the assisted-suicide question did not prevail, but we still must take action by offering our members and colleagues training in compassionate, end-of-life care. CME programs are being planned.”

“The question on medical marijuana did pass…and the most important question for physicians is this: What exactly must physicians do when the law takes effect on January 1? What are our rights and responsibilities and what are the risks, both clinically and legally? ….There is more confusion than clarity, but physicians are getting questions about this from their patients every day, and they needed some answers….our legal staff quickly produced a detailed commentary about the law posted on our website.  We will watch this matter closely during the regulatory process.”

Affordable Care Act and Impending Medicare Cuts
“The future of the ACA is all but assured, but the future of Medicare and other federal programs is anything but certain…The AMA continues to fight for a permanent repeal of the SGR, to stabilize both Medicare and the Federal deficit….The only sensible answer is to end the SGR and move forward with a new payment model for Medicare. The AMA hopes to address the immediate cuts during this coming month, while setting the stage for a more permanent solution next year. We completely support the AMA’s approach and stand ready to assist with outreach to our congressional delegation as needed.”

Changes in the practice environment
“Over the last few years, we’ve seen many physicians leave independent practices and become employed….The transition to employed status is just one of the changes we’re seeing. We have entered a period of continuous evolution in health care. There is no end point to this process…so this environment calls for a continuous improvement approach…surveying the environment, identifying the challenges and opportunities, developing a plan to adjust, implementing the plan, and assessing the results and making adjustments as needed.”

Honor Traditions and Values, Continue as Leaders
In closing his remarks, Dr. Aghababian urged members to “maintain our collegiality and cohesiveness as physicians, even when certain issues threaten to divide us. We must recognize diversity of opinion, but not allow those disagreements to define us….Let us take this opportunity, at this meeting, to honor our traditions and values, while continued to serve as leaders in health care reform.”

Dr. Aghababian’s complete remarks may be read here.


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