August 27, 2007

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AMA Launches "Voice for the Uninsured" Campaign

This month, the AMA is launching a three-year campaign to incite action on the issue of covering America's uninsured. Timed to coincide with the 2008 election cycle, the AMA is reaching out to voters and candidates to talk about the problem of the uninsured and the AMA’s solution. The second year of the campaign will focus on influencing Americans to vote for president with the issue of the uninsured in mind. The third year, post-election, the AMA will urge members of Congress to pass legislation to cover all Americans. All AMA physicians will be sent "Voice for the Uninsured" materials to give their patients, and physicians and medical students are encouraged to participate in activities to engage voters on this issue.

“The AMA campaign is grounded in the sad fact that one in seven Americans is uninsured,” said AMA President-elect Nancy Nielsen, M.D. “As the 2008 presidential hopefuls develop their platforms for health care reform, the AMA is encouraging them to incorporate the AMA proposal into their plans to cover the uninsured."
According to Dr. Nielson, under the AMA plan, the vast majority of Americans would have the means to purchase health care coverage.

“It would give individuals choices," she said, "so they can select the appropriate coverage for them and their families, and would promote market reforms in the insurance industry.”

As part of the first phase of the three-year campaign, this year the AMA launches a new website,, to allow patients to learn more about the AMA’s proposal to cover the uninsured, sign a petition, and share a personal story. From Labor Day through the end of this year, AMA ads will appear in various television, print, radio and online outlets in Washington, D.C. and the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. During September and December, the Metro Center station in Washington, D.C. will be blanketed with 100 ads.

The AMA is reaching out to doctors to involve them in the AMA campaign:

  • Physicians and medical students are encouraged to participate in activities in early primary states where they will hand out information and engage voters.
  • All AMA physicians will be sent “Voice For The Uninsured” materials to give their patients.
  • AMA Member Connect Roundtables will take place around the country to provide an opportunity for physicians to interact with AMA leadership.

“The AMA is enlisting doctors and medical students in our campaign, and asking them to become advocates on this important issue,” said Dr. Nielsen. “Covering the uninsured is a top priority for the AMA, and today we’re taking a big step forward in our commitment to cover all Americans.”

The AMA will continue to lobby Congress to reauthorize the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Earlier this year, the AMA joined forces with a group of 16 national health care stakeholders to reach consensus on recommendations to cover the uninsured using some of the core principles of the AMA proposal.

Maine Medical Center to Partner with an Existing Medical School

The Maine Medical Center is negotiating with three established medical schools in New England to choose a partner for a new medical school program, based partially in the State of Maine at the Maine Medical Center.   Hoping to begin the program in the fall of 2010, the new relationship will be with either the University of Vermont, Tufts University or Dartmouth College.  The program would reserve 20 slots for students from Maine.    About 80 Maine residents applied to medical schools last year, with about half of those applicants being accepted.  Those numbers are about the lowest in the nation for any state, in terms of a state's residents graduating from college and going on to medical school.

With the current shortage of physicians in the country expected to get worse, the Maine Medical Association also has advocated for increased medical school opportunities for Maine residents.  A resolution on this topic will be presented at the upcoming Annual Session Sept. 7-9 in Bar Harbor.  The resolution wil be considered at the Annual business meeting on Saturday morning.

The core of the new program would include  a curriculum developed jointly by the selected medical school and Maine Medical Center.  First and second-year students would split their time between the home campus and MMC with all of the third and fourth year spent in Portland and at other clinical clerkships thorough  Maine.

The Medical Center hopes to select its partner by this Fall, with more details to be worked out subsequent to that.  The opportunity for Maine students to pay in-state tuition rates would be a major advantage.  The enhanced teaching opportunity for Maine physicians would be another corollary benefit.

The state's only medical school currently is part of the University of New England where students receive a doctor of osteopathy degree (DO).  [return to top]

Opiate Abuse in Maine Continues to Receive Publicity

The abuse of opiates in Maine continues to receive a lot of public attention, with a recent series of associated press and local articles highlighting the problem.  An article in the August 26 issue of the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Sentinel is fairly representative noting that opiate addictions in Maine are sending more people per capita to clinics for treatment than anywhere else in the nation.  The article, by staff writer Joel Elliot, asserts that the problem is accerating in Kennebec and Aroostook counties faster than in other regions of the state. 

Kennebec County showed an increase of over 1,000% in people treated for opiate addiction over the past seven years.  Aroostook's increase was 1400%.  The number of people admitted for treatment statewide jumped to 3,810 in 2006  - five times the number in 1999. 

Much of the illicit use of opiates begin with a prescription written for ligitimate medical purposes.  Diversion of the drug then results in its improper use.  In addition, some physicians continue to be "duped" by their "patients" who are seeking drugs for illegal sale or to support an addiction.  The use of tamper-resistent prescription pads for schedule II narcotics and the state's Prescription Monitoring Program have assisted physicians in getting a better handle on this problem.  In addition, the guidelines for prescribing for pain issued jointly by the medical boards in Maine in 1997 have been helpful

MMA participated in 15 different educational programs in the past two years, presenting education on this topic.  The programs were funded through a grant from the Maine Office of Substance Abuse.  Local DEA agents also participated in the programs.  The next prgram will occur at Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover Foxcroft at 7:00am on Friday morning, Sept. 14.  Three hours of cateogry one CME are available.  Persons interested in attending or interested in having a program presented at their practice or institution should contact Gail Begin at MMA at 622-3374 ext. 210 or via e-mail to [return to top]

Still Time to Register for MMA Annual Session, Sept 7-9 in Bar Harbor

While the Harborside Hotel is sold out, there are many other comfortable and inexpensive accomodations available for those members, non-members or guests wishing to attend MMA's 154th Annual Session in Bar Harbor Sept. 7-9, 2007.  Seven and one-half hours of category one credit are available with the educational theme being "Maine Medicine 2020 - New Horizons."  Over forty exhibitors will be presenting their goods and services in the Exhibit Hall.

The meeting opens with a keynote luncheon on Friday, Sept. 7.  Luncheon speakers include William Plested, M.D., immediate Past President of the American Medical Association and Charles Baker, CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare.  Friday afternoon also features an innovative presentation by the Center for Medical Simulation Lab in Cambridge, MA. 

For a complete program, go to the Association's website at or call MMA at 622-3374.  An alternative list of housing is also available from the office or on the website.

We hope to see many of you at the meeting. [return to top]

Postpartum Support International Announces Free "Open Forum" Sessions

Postpartum Support International (PSI), a patient advocacy organization based in Santa Barbara, California, is sponsoring a series of telephone conferences for patients suffering from post-partum depression.  In 2007, the 123rd Maine Legislature established a working group to seek ways to improve the recognition and treatment of post-partum depression in our state in L.D. 792, Resolve, To Direct the Department of Health and Human Services To Review and Report on Efforts Concerning Postpartum Mental Health Education (Resolves 2007, Chapter 58).  The following is PSI's announcement of this service:


Imagine the benefits of being able to talk with a PSI PPD expert about resources, symptoms, options and general information about perinatal mood disorders from the privacy of your own home. No need to arrange child care or transportation. No need to pre-register or give your name.

Sessions are informational only and open to anyone with questions and concerns about themselves, a loved one, friend or family member. Limited to the first 15 callers, Wednesday sessions are held at either 3 PM or 9 PM EST.

Visit for call schedule and access codes, or call PSI’s main office at 1-800-944-4773 for further information.

Take the first step, or the next step. Call us and remember: You are not alone, you are not to blame and with help, you WILL be well. [return to top]

Trend Towards Single Specialty Practices Found in Survey

According to a survey of physicians by the Center for Studying Health System Change released August 16, 2007, physician specialists are moving into single specialty practices more than multi-specialty practices, largely because the cost of operating multi-specialty practices has risen faster than insurance reimbursement rates have increased.  While single specialty practices may be more profitable, the report concludes that multi-specialty practices may be better suited to handling quality improvement and health information technology initiatives that are important aspects of medical practices today.

The report, Physicians Moving to Mid-Sized, Single-Specialty Practices, is based on nationwide telephone surveys of 6611 physicians in 2004-2005.  The survey found that the percentage of physicians working in practices of 6 to 50 physicians increased from 13.1% in 1996 to 17.6% in 2004, while the percentage of physicians in solo practice decreased from 40.7% in 1996 to 32.5% in 2004.  The percentage of primary care physicians in solo or 2-physician practices remained about the same at 36% between 1996 and 2004, but the percentage of medical specialists in solo or 2-physician practices dropped 12% and the percentage of surgical specialists in solo or 2-physician practices dropped 10.3% during this period.  The percentage of medical specialists in solo or 2-physician practices decreased from 38.1% in 1996 to 26.1% in 2004, while the percentage of surgical specialists in such small practices decreased from 47.8% in 1996 to 37.5% in 2004.

 The survey is available on the web at: [return to top]

AHRQ Reports Substantial Health Insurance Premium Increases From 2000-2005

According to a survey report published by the US DHHS, Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ) on August 17, 2007, the average annual premium for employer-sponsored family health insurance coverage increased from $6772 to $10,728 between 2000 and 2005.  During the same period, the average annual individual premium cost increased from $2655 to $3991.  Employees' premiums increased 60% during the period, from $1614 to $2585.  Employers paid 58% more during the time period with the amounts increasing from $5158 to $8143.

You can find more information about the survey on the web at:
[return to top]

Connecticut County Medical Society Sues CIGNA Over Tiered Specialty Networks

On July 26, 2007, the Fairfield County Medical Society filed an action in Superior Court in Danbury challenging the exclusion of certain in-network physicians from "elite" physician designation programs established by CIGNA, UnitedHealth, Oxford, and related companies.  The suit alleges defamation, tortious interference with business expectancies, breach of contract, violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, and unlawful conspiracy.  The physicians claim that the "sole dispositive factor" in designating which physicians are in the "elite" subset is cost.

A similar lawsuit brought by physicians in Washington state and the AMA against Regence BlueShield recently settled.
[return to top]

"Improving the Care of Cancer Survivors" Online Course Offered Free

Many Primary Care Providers (PCPs) do not feel prepared to monitor and manage the late health effects that may arise with patients following cancer treatment.

However, a PCP’s sense of being prepared to handle transitional care issues for cancer survivors increases as the frequency of receiving detailed treatment information and follow up recommendations from oncologists increases.

A FREE Online CME Program, entitled  “Late Effects of Cancer Treatment and Survivorship:  Strategies for Primary Care and Oncology Care Providers” is being offered to clinicians who care for cancer survivors. The program includes sample End of Treatment Summaries and Survivor Care Plans that can be utilized in the transition of care for cancer survivors.  This program was recently extended through September 15, 2008 and offers 3 AMA PRA category 1 credits & CEUs for nurses.

To access the Online Program, go to:

Questions regarding this initiative can be directed to Lynn Stillman RN at 603-695-7848. [return to top]

MMA Seeks Volunteers for Committee

Any membership association is dependent upon volunteer leadership to grow and flourish.  MMA has several opportunities for physician members wishing to serve the association in some capacity.  We are looking for members willing to serve on one or more of the following committees:

  • Bylaws
  • Nominations
  • Public Health
  • Legislation
  • Membership and Member Benefits
  • Quality Improvement and Peer Review

There may also be Executive Committee vacancies in some counties, including specifically Oxford County, York County and Penobscot County.

We are also in need of two osteopathic representatives on the Committee on Physician Health.

Members interested in a committee appointment should contact the Association's Executive Vice President, Gordon Smith at
  [return to top]

September 7th "First Fridays" Seminar Postponed

The September 7th edition of MMA's popular "First Fridays" educational series has been postponed. The session, featuring speaker Beth Boynton, RN, MS, entitled "Collaboration Skills for Healthcare Professionals" will be featured as part of MMA's 2008 seminar series.

However, don't miss the last session of 2007: Using Data to Improve Quality and Public Reporting, October 5, 2007. Register online today! [return to top]

For more information or to contact us directly, please visit l ©2003, Maine Medical Association