AMA adopts new policies on health insurance exchanges, virtual ID

November 30, 2011

If you're considering joining a health insurance exchange, you may be interested in reading the American Medical Association's new policy regarding such exchanges. In addition, the association recently approved a policy regarding portable medical identification alert systems for patients.

If you’re considering joining a health insurance exchange, you may be interested in reading the American Medical Association’s (AMA’s) new policy regarding insurance exchanges (see number 6 under Reports of the Council on Medical Service), which were created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The AMA supports using the open marketplace model for health insurance exchanges to increase competition and maximize patient choice and also supports the involvement of state medical associations in the legislative and regulatory processes concerning state health insurance exchanges.

Under the new policy, the AMA also will advocate for including patients and practicing physicians in health insurance exchange governing structures and for developing systems that allow for real-time patient eligibility information. The policy was adopted as part of a report from the AMA’s Council on Medical Service.

“If they are developed well, health insurance exchanges will provide a new way for millions of Americans to obtain healthcare coverage from private insurers," says Barbara McAneny, MD, an AMA board member. "Physicians and patients should be involved in setting up and governing these bodies to ensure they best meet the healthcare needs of residents in each state."

In addition, the AMA adopted a policy encouraging the availability of portable medical identification (ID) alert systems for patients (see resolution 815). Virtual medical ID systems allow emergency medical personnel to access a patient’s medical history and emergency contact phone numbers through a personal ID number that can be attached to clothing or keys or stored in a wallet. They allow emergency responders and medical staff in emergency departments immediate access to health and family contact information for patients who are enrolled in these systems.

“A physician’s ability to obtain health information for patients at the point of care can make a significant difference in providing successfully (sic) treatment,” says Carl Sirio, MD, an AMA board member. “When patients are unable to communicate for themselves, especially in emergency situations, these identification devices can share vital information and may help save lives.”

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