AMA: Top 9 physician issues for 2016

Physicians have to juggle patient care, payment issues and the regulatory landscape. Here are nine of the biggest issues that will impact physicians this year, according to the American Medical Association.

1. Medicare reform. The sustainable growth rate was repealed with the passage of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, which sets the stage for Medicare reform. The AMA hopes the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System will help physicians adopt new models of care and address flaws in the current payment system.

2. Meaningful use. CMS released the Stage 3 final rule for the meaningful use program in 2015. Though President Obama signed the MU hardship exemption bill into law providing a blanket exemption from reimbursement penalties in 2017, the EHR incentive program will continue to play a large role in healthcare.

3. Insurance mergers. Aetna acquired Humana, and Anthem acquired Cigna. These payers argue the mergers will give rise to efficiency and innovative models, but the AMA expresses concern the transactions will actually lead to decreased competition.

4. Provider networks and balance billing. Narrow networks will continue to proliferate, and patients' out-of-pocket costs are expected to increase. These trends will affect patient access to care. The AMA hopes to work with HHS and other stakeholders to advocate for patients and for fair pay for physicians.  

5. Prescription drug abuse. Opioid abuse, addiction and drug-related deaths have steadily risen over the past 10 years The AMA is focusing on the issue through its Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse.  

6. Prescription drug costs. Prescription drug costs continue to escalate. Physicians at the 2015 AMA Interim Meeting voted to create a task force and advocacy campaign to make these medications more affordable.

7. GME funding and student debt relief. Funding to for graduate medical education is at risk of being cut, according to the AMA report. The physician group is involved in Save GME, a grassroots campaign to fight these funding cuts.

8. Data security. Three of the biggest data breaches to ever occur were reported in 2015. Cybersecurity is a pressing issue that will continue to play a significant role in healthcare.

9. Telemedicine. Patients and physicians are getting onboard with telemedicine. As this trend grows, coverage and regulation will continue to evolve. The AMA aims to advance the Interstate Medical Licensure Company of the Federation of State Medical Boards, which focuses on state licensure for telemedicine.

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