The AMA will be providing educational materials to physicians and patients
about the newly enacted federal parity law on insurance coverage of mental
illness and substance abuse.
There was virtually unanimous support from a variety of physicians for the
measure approved at last month's Interim Meeting of the House of the Delegates
in Orlando, Fla.
Original wording in the resolution, submitted by the Minnesota delegation,
called for a "nationwide campaign." Though there was considerable
support for such an undertaking, the fiscal note attached to the original
wording was $3 million to $7 million, a figure that was widely considered
Psychiatrist Jerry Halvorson, M.D., a member of APA's delegation to the
AMA, testifies during reference committee hearings on a resolution calling on
the AMA to educate physicians and patients about the new federal mental health
Credit: Mark Moran
Most delegates expressed skepticism that an educational effort would need
to cost so much, and the wording finally approved called on the AMA to"
develop information to be posted on our Web site that would educate
physicians and the public about the benefits now afforded to them by recently
passed Mental Health Parity legislation."
The resolution received vocal support from members of the AMA Board of
Trustees, residents and medical student representatives, and physicians of all
Neurologist and delegate Benjamin Whitten, M.D., of Minnesota said the
parity act was a "victory" for the AMA, physicians, and patients."
The AMA has had long-standing policy in support of this," Whitten
"We are in a time of fiscal restraint," said AMA board member
Peter Carmel, M.D. "But the board is working with a consultant to
totally revise our Web site, and it will be a good vehicle for education. We
will put up on the AMA Web site the educational materials that are needed to
inform both physicians and the lay public about mental health
"There are many ways to leverage resources to get this job
done," agreed Kevin Sherin, M.D., of Orlando, president of the American
Association of Public Health Physicians. "The mission is critical and
affects all specialties."
John McIntyre, M.D., chair of the Section Council on Psychiatry, cited the"
support and enthusiasm throughout the House of Delegates for the
passage" of the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and
Addiction Equity Act of 2008.
He added, "The AMA had lobbied along with APA for this for many
years, and there was considerable celebration about its having passed. It's
significant that the house thought it important that the impact be maximized
by making sure that physicians and patients are fully informed."
McIntyre added that the section council agreed that existing technological
resources should be used for dissemination of information and that an
expensive national campaign "was not the right way to go."
In other house business of interest to psychiatrists, delegates approved a
report by the AMA's Council on Medical Services outlining problems associated
with physician payment under the military's TRICARE health care system and
with recruitment of clinicians—especially mental health
After testimony from psychiatrists and other physicians about the
importance of recruiting mental health clinicians, delegates approved the
report with a resolution calling on the AMA to "encourage the TRICARE
Management Activity and its contractors to continue and strengthen their
efforts to recruit and retain mental health and addiction service providers in
TRICARE networks, which should include providing adequate reimbursement for
mental health and addiction services."
Also approved was a recommendation that the AMA "strongly urge the
TRICARE Management Activity to implement significant increases in physician
payment rates to ensure all TRICARE beneficiaries, including service members
and their families, have adequate access to and choice of
Seated at the AMA House of Delegates meeting are Section Council on
Psychiatry members (from right) Rodrigo Muñoz, M.D., Paul Wick, M.D.,
and Ken Certa, M.D.
Credit: Mark Moran
APA President Nada Stotland, M.D., testified during reference committee
hearings in support of the measure. "Service in the military has
resulted in a devastating epidemic of mental illnesses, causing disability and
pain to members and veterans of the armed services and their families. All too
often these illnesses, when untreated, end tragically, in suicide.
"The American Psychiatric Association has conducted a membership
survey," Stotland said. "Psychiatrists report payment obstacles
and low reimbursement so severe that they either cannot participate or regard
participation as charity care."
Stotland also informed the house that the American Psychiatric Foundation
has supported the development of a program called Give an Hour, encouraging
members to volunteer time to treating veterans. "Thousands of mental
health professionals are donating an hour of direct service, consultation, or
education each week," she said
(see More Professionals See Value of Volunteering to Help Vets).
She provided delegates written information about Give an Hour and urged
physicians to visit the program's Web site at<www.giveanhour.org>.
McIntyre, who serves on the AMA Council on Medical Services, noted that the
council had met with Maj. Gen. Elder Granger, M.C., a physician and deputy
director and program executive office of TRICARE. He said that Granger was
very welcoming of input from physicians about the matter of physician payment
and manpower shortage areas and had vowed to continue being in contact with
APA representatives were also involved in shaping measures by the house to
address misinformation about childhood vaccines and their alleged but
unproven-causal relationship with autism.
The house passed a resolution calling on the AMA to draft model legislation
that states can pursue to enact more stringent requirements for parents and
legal guardians to obtain personal-belief exemptions from state immunization
requirements, develop educational materials that can be distributed to
patients and their families articulating the benefits of immunizations and
highlighting the exemplary safety record of vaccines, and communicate and work
with other concerned organizations about effective ways to continue to support
immunizations while rejecting claims that have no foundation in science.
The addition of a recommendation that the AMA develop educational materials
was prompted by reference committee testimony from child psychiatrist and
psychiatry section council member Louis Kraus, M.D.
"Time and time again I hear from families wondering if they should
avoid vaccines," Kraus said. "Thousands of kids are not being
vaccinated because of faulty information. One of the key components of this
resolution is not just that we support the concept of vaccination but that we
support the dissemination of information. There is repetitive research showing
that vaccines are not a causative agent of autism." ▪