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Organized Medicine in Illinois Transcends State's Boundaries
Posted on: 7/5/2013
Eldon A. Trame, MD
ISMS President
Eldon A. Trame, MD  

One of the distinct pleasures of serving as ISMS President is the chance to meet and network with physicians from around the country. It’s important that we understand the challenges our colleagues in other states face, and hearing about their successes can inform and energize our own efforts.

Last month, I attended the American Medical Association’s annual meeting.
I also attended the Organization of State Medical Association Presidents’ (OSMAP) gathering, which always convenes prior to the AMA.

OSMAP is a forum that allows participating states to discuss common issues and concerns. It’s a good forum for idea sharing and discussing solutions to modern medicine’s challenges. This year’s discussion ranged from strengthening involvement at all levels of organized medicine to state progress in implementing health insurance exchanges and dealing with Affordable Care Act regulations.

One issue I heard about isn’t likely to be reported in Illinois media, but it impacts us all. The granddaddy of all medical liability reform laws, California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), is once again facing a serious challenge.  A coalition of trial lawyer groups is funding a ballot initiative to overturn MICRA that they hope will come before voters in the November 2014 general election. This landmark law has been controlling costs for physicians and patients in California for nearly 40 years, and if it is weakened or overturned, physicians in all 50 states will face greater liability challenges in the future.

During our AMA meeting, our task as the Illinois delegation is to bring forward for AMA consideration resolutions adopted by the ISMS House of Delegates. This year we presented 10 resolutions; also up for AMA debate was an item we generated last year, which had been deferred for additional study. Two of our issues created quite a buzz at the meeting.

First, the AMA’s decision to classify obesity as a disease, which was widely reported in national media, stemmed in part from a resolution ISMS introduced last year.  This new stance will likely have a significant impact on the way physicians address obesity in their patients, and should help make the case to health insurers to cover evaluation and treatment of obesity before any comorbidity or complications occur. Guiding national conversations on topics like this is one of our greatest responsibilities as a profession, and it is a privilege to take part.

Our second item of interest dealt with recognizing cheerleading as a sport.  Our resolution on cheerleading will be studied by the AMA and considered again at a future meeting. In Illinois, the groups that regulate school sports already classify cheerleading as a sport. This designation translates to schools enforcing adequate medical safety standards to reduce potential injuries for participants and allow for better training and access to medical care. Currently only half of U.S. states recognize cheerleading as a sport, and AMA backing could help raise the profile of protecting these athletes.

The influence of physicians in the legislative process is even more pronounced at the state level. This year in the Illinois General Assembly we contended with several bills relating to scope-of-practice issues for psychologists, advance practice nurses and dentists, to name a few. We had positive outcomes on all these scope bills, but Illinois came dangerously close to allowing psychologists to prescribe psychotropic drugs. A grant from the AMA Scope of Practice Partnership funded critical advocacy resources in Illinois when we were in the home stretch of this debate, and it was a significant factor in our success. The AMA meeting allowed us a forum to thank the AMA for this important support and share our story with other states on how physician organizations working together can succeed.

The partnerships that will safeguard the future of our profession are not just between organizations. They are between each one of us and our colleagues, down the street and across the country.

Wherever physicians can be lulled into a false sense of security by others who do not have their best interests at heart, who urge them not to rock the boat, there we will soon see dangerous legislation and damaging regulation being adopted with greater ease. But wherever physicians know that we are the only ones who will stand up and protect ourselves and our patients, and that we must be organized and unified to be effective, there we will see sensible policies and much-needed reforms winning the day. 

Illinois is such a place, and I hope you and your colleagues will join me in keeping it that way. 

 



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