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AMA's new policies: Medicaid for Puerto Rico, paid leave for organ donors

Group wants federal government to fully fund the Medicaid programs of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, territories still reeling from storms.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

The American Medical Association has adopted new public health policies pushing for organ donors to get paid leave, cervical cancer screening for transgender patients, and emergency Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico.

The AMA announced the new policies Wednesday, saying they had been approved during a voting session of their Interim Meeting.

[Also: Kaiser Permanente pledges $1 million for Puerto Rico relief efforts]

First, they approved a new policy encouraging paid leave for anyone donating an organ, citing research they say showed that direct costs to living organ donors exceed one month's wage for 76 percent of donors. They also argued that many donors don't have enough medical leave or vacation time to accommodate their recovery, and should not have to take a financial hit when donating an organ to someone in need.

The AMA will also urge the federal government to fully fund the Medicaid programs of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands so that they can deal with the destruction left by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

[Also: Low government reimbursement rates, crushing national debt fuels physician shortage in Puerto Rico]

"Increased federal funding for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands' Medicaid programs would provide support for the medical and public health needs of their residents and would help provide needed care and restore access to health care services," said Russell W.H. Kridel, MD, a member of the AMA Board of Trustees.

The AMA House of Delegates also gave the green light to a new policy to improve screenings and health outcomes among sex and gender minority patients, specifically female-to-male transgender patients, citing the efficacy of cervical cancer screenings in reducing the incidence of new cervical cancers and deaths from the disease. They said sexual and gender minority patients may be less likely to have such screenings performed due to anatomy, but are at no less risk for the disease.

Finally, the AMA approved adopted new policies pushing to include depression screening in pregnant and postpartum women as a routine protocol. They will also push for state and federal legislation establishing Maternal Mortality Review Committees that will examine circumstances surrounding deaths that happen during pregnancy or the first year after childbirth, pointing out  statistics that show one in seven women experience anxiety or depression during pregnancy or in the first year following childbirth, and that 65,000 women suffer serious complications related to pregnancy.

"As attention is turned toward the newborn, the health and wellbeing of the mother can, unfortunately, take a back seat, even as preventable physical and mental issues pose dangers. We need to recognize that dangers of postpartum depression and recognize that pregnancy-related deaths have been increasing," said Albert J. Osbahr III, MD, a member of the AMA Board of Trustees.

Twitter: @BethJSanborn
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