We (the ASCO delegation) have just returned from the interim American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates meeting in Orlando. ASCO proposed a resolution focused on the restrictive opioid policies being adopted by many states. Many of the state legislations include language restricting opioid prescription drug numbers and frequency. Although everyone understands and appreciates the need to restrict, the concern we expressed emphasized the reality that the pendulum may have swung too far.
We were all concerned that this resolution, which asked the AMA to advocate against applying such restrictions to patients being actively treated for cancer, might be “pushed back” by other disciplines. Fortunately, this concern went unfounded. ASCO’s resolution was quickly endorsed by all. The Pain and Palliative Medicine Specialty caucus was especially helpful. We have attended that caucus for many years. Their backing and suggestions crafted slightly better language, leading to increased odds of universal acceptance.
I was impressed during ongoing testimony by how many delegates expressed a genuine concern in regards to overarching medically based legislation being adopted at both state and federal levels without medical community input.
This personal observation segues to another personal observation. I believe this meeting had more than a subtle undertone of concern laced with a heavy component of “what is happening and where do we go from here?” As a result of the recent presidential election, the natural concerns involve…well, everything! What will happen to the Affordable Care Act? How will it look in 6 months? What will happen to the Quality Payment Program (MACRA/MIPS)? What about the Medicare Part B demonstration proposal? For that matter, what will happen to Medicare? The AMA House of Delegates meets again in June 2017. The first 100 days of the new administration by then will have passed.
This uncertainty led to deep conversations with so many delegates about these topics and so much more. I felt that these concerns were not necessarily ideological or politically based. They were genuine, nonpartisan, far reaching, and shared by all.
I came away, more than ever before, with the realization that we as a medical community will need every tool we can gather to safeguard our profession and subsequently our patients. Being active in professionally oriented societies such as ASCO, AMA, etc., has never been so relevant. Become engaged! Stay engaged!