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Kaiser Health News reports that about 350 physicians came to Capitol Hill this week to lobby Congress on behalf of the American Medical Association. Although they left their white coats at home, they were still there as doctors.

Their goal was to build support for the organization’sRecovery Plan for America’s Physicians” – a wish list that includes a pay raise, relief from insurance company prior-authorization demands, and more federally funded residency slots to train more physicians.

In a speech to physician and medical student leaders from across the country last year, American Medical Association President Gerald E. Harmon, M.D., unveiled the AMA Recovery Plan for America’s Physicians. It seeks fundamental changes to create a health system that better supports patients and physicians today and over the long run.

It outlines a five-point strategy to strengthen the physician workforce, recover from the trauma of the pandemic, and improve health care delivery by eliminating some of the most common pain points that threaten to drive physicians from practice.

The AMA’s comprehensive approach includes:

– – Supporting telehealth to maintain gains in coverage and payment.
– – Reforming Medicare payment to promote thriving physician practices and innovation.
– – Stopping scope creep that threatens patient safety.
– – Fixing prior authorization to reduce the burden on practices and minimize dangerous care delays for patients.
– – Reducing physician burnout and addressing the stigma around mental health.

Dr. Harmon noted that “Physician shortages, already projected to be severe before COVID, have almost become a public health emergency. If we aren’t successful with this Recovery Plan, it’ll be even more challenging to bring talented young people into medicine and fill that expected shortage.”

Thus he also proposed that the barriers that are keeping people out, particularly students from underrepresented communities be addressed.

– – We need to reduce the amount of debt medical students must carry to complete their educations, now over 200,000 dollars, especially as we attract physicians to rural America.
– – We need to expand the number of residency training slots and remove caps to Medicare-funded positions that Congress put in place long ago.
– – And we need to win funding from Congress to support the creation of new medical schools and residency programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges and Universities.

The AMA represents about 250,000 doctors, roughly a quarter of the U.S. physician workforce. And sending its members in droves to Washington to make their case is nothing new. But this was the first organized group effort in more than three years, because of the covid-19 pandemic.

While the AMA has a full staff of lobbyists in Washington, association officials say their best weapon is often doctors themselves, who wrestle with insurance company red tape and bureaucratic reimbursement rules every day. “There is nothing quite like telling members of Congress how things work in their district,” said Dr. Jack Resneck Jr., AMA president and a dermatologist at the University of California-San Francisco.