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AMA Faces a Crossroads

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, July 29, 2010

In March, I talked with Robert Moffit, PhD, a senior fellow for domestic and economic policy at the Heritage Foundation, who insisted one of the potential losers in healthcare reform was going to be the powerful American Medical Association.

 

Moffit says the AMA was not a force in the healthcare debate. He says the AMA's arguments languished in Congress as it tried to overturn the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula that governed physician Medicare payments, yet limply supported the Obama healthcare reform.

Indeed, as Congress dragged out the "doc fix" debacle, the AMA would issue statements saying that patients were the big losers and Congress needed to act. The AMA's press statements often sounded the same, with the difference being some quotes.  I thought the press releases were quite tame. Moffit thought they were weak. Moffit indicated that the AMA would pay a price for what he saw as waffling in the healthcare debate.

In late June, President Obama signed a bill that would postpone until Nov. 30 the proposed 21% cut in Medicare and TRICARE reimbursements to physicians.

After the votes in Congress, I kept thinking: where's the fallout for the AMA? Was Moffit wrong? Was this just another conservative taunt from the Heritage Foundation?

But in the aftermath of healthcare reform, there is no doubt some physicians are furious with the AMA and even some of the organization's strongest supporters say the organization must rethink its approaches as it moves ahead. In August, the Florida Medical Association is scheduled to consider a resolution to break away from the AMA. Moffit thinks it's just the beginning of political trauma for the AMA. We'll see.
The Florida Medical Association resolution says that the AMA "failed to achieve one single concession" in the healthcare reform legislation, according to The Hill, the Washington newspaper. The resolution says the AMA is "failing to lead and represent America's physicians."

The Hill didn't reach the sponsor of the resolution, Douglas M. Stevens, MD, a Fort Meyers, FLA, plastic surgeon, but I did. He confirmed the resolution, saying "in Florida physicians have seen what government sponsored healthcare is and think it's a disaster.
The AMA consistently failed us on the signature U.S. healthcare policy—and failed us miserably," He added, "I'm not clear whom the AMA is representing anymore."

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