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All Docs Want for Christmas Is a Second Opinion?

21 Dec

It’s no surprise that there’s a renewed call for repeal of health reform in the wake of the mid-term elections and the anticipation of a Republican-controlled House in 2011. What is a surprise is where the American Medical Association stands on the issue. Well, sort of. (I’ll explain.) You may already have seen this, but even if so, I think it’s worth taking a look at in a bit more detail.

The news, as reported in this Health Affairs blog post, is that the AMA voted to rescind its support of the individual mandate–that pesky requirement that everyone obtain insurance coverage–which it had previously backed. From an historical perspective, that isn’t really the shocker. No, the shocker was when the AMA endorsed the health reform legislation. In fact, I’ve heard plenty of people talk about how important neutralizing that group–if not rallying its support–was to the eventual passage of the legislation.

But not so fast. The AMA vote was overridden by another vote to postpone the issue until the annual meeting in June. That’s sure to give both sides time to formulate a strategy. And that’s what’s so interesting: There are two pretty evenly split groups within the AMA. Could this issue be controversial enough to split the AMA into two opposing lobbies? I highly doubt it. The AMA’s strength lies in the number of physicians it represents. But what it may do is make the AMA start to look a lot like the highly partisan Congress, and if that happens, it may not be the AMA lobbying Congress, but members of Congress appealing to members of the AMA in a bit of “reverse lobbying.”

After all, the AMA has played an important role over the years in determining the fate of various health reform initiatives. So, when Speaker Boehner picks up the gavel, you can rest assured that he and the rest of the GOP will be pulling for the AMA to rescind its endorsement–what a huge PR move in support of repeal–and you can also rest assured that the Democrats who championed the law will be working hard behind the scenes to make sure that the AMA keeps its word.

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2 Comments

Posted by on December 21, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

2 responses to “All Docs Want for Christmas Is a Second Opinion?

  1. Jan Baer

    December 21, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    At the time the AMA was reported to support the ACA, news media claimed the organization had only a small percent of all doctors among their membership, yet the support of AMA still seemed prestigious. Is it true that most physicians are not members of the AMA?

     
  2. D. Brad Wright

    December 21, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Jan, this is true. There are about 900,000 practicing physicians in the U.S. and there are about 240,000 AMA members. However, a large number of AMA members are not considered actively practicing physicians–e.g., they are retired or in medical school or residency. So, the estimate is that fewer than 20% of actively practicing MDs are AMA members. So it's a mixed bag–the AMA demands attention because it has pretty big numbers, but it certainly doesn't speak for all (or even a majority) of a doctors. Whether that point is made or not will depend largely on who's arguing for what.

     

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