Thursday, December 10, 2009

How Can the AMA Wield Such Power in Health Reform? The DMCB Explains

There they go again. Tossing a monkey into the wrench of Senator Reid's fragile health reform compromise, the American Medical Association has come out against the Medicare buy-in plan for persons age 55 to 64 years. While physicians, hospitals and insurers dislike the economics, the AMA has stressed that it's Medicare budgetary woes that are the real problem. Things are on hold until the Congressional Budget Office 'scores' this latest scheme.

Let the games continue.

But who IS this AMA and how can an organization with a membership that is only a fraction of all U.S physicians wield such clout? There are other physician groups out there, there is no shortage of docs that vociferously oppose the AMA's positions and some of them have the President's ear. Yet, when the AMA rises in oppotion to the motion, Presidents, Legislators and the media still pause and listen.

The Disease Management Care Blog explains.

1) Despite having a membership that comprises only minority of physicians, it is still the nation's largest physician organization.

2) While there are sufficient numbers of docs to fill a Rose Garden for the cameras or create impressive web sites, the AMA argues that it also represents the silent majority of politically inactive and non-dues paying physicians who don't belong to any advocacy group. They may have a point.

3) While many physicians are members of 'other' professional specialty-based organizations, a huge number of those organizations participate in the AMA. The AMA has been referred to as the House of Medicine for a good reason.

4) Despite attempts of some hostile media to convince folks otherwise, the 'AMA' has a recognizable advocacy 'brand.' It makes no difference if, as many allege, that the association is slowly losing it's grip on the physicians' conscience, the public believes it still has it. The President's political calculus recognizes that. By the way, so does the AMA - and they just might.

5) You may call it lobbying, but the AMA has an impressive policy infrastructure that has been long relied on Inside The Beltway for its expertise. Their insider access is not a function of money or lobbyists but history, relationships and insights.

6) JAMA, a premier peer review journal that is must reading for any physician. 'Nuff said.

The DMCB is a proud member of the AMA. While it may not agree with all of the House of Medicine's positions, it thinks it has a greater voice by being a dues paying participant. It immodestly believes the AMA is better off for it.


Michael Halasy said...


What do you think of the recent rather negative connotations of the AMA that are being purported by Sermo...???

Just curious.


Jaan Sidorov said...

Hi Mike!

Indeed. If I'm correct, it was Sermo and the Huffington Post that led the way. One of the links above goes to a Sermo site with some blistering and earnest attacks by physicians.

I'll speculate that there is an angry segment of physicians who really oppose the AMA. Based on Sermo (or the President's recent Rose Garden affair), we really don't know how big that segment is. My suspicion is that they are a distinct minority.