Does the AMA Fairly Represent You?

June 10, 2010

In the most recent healthcare reform debate, the AMA apparently did not represent the majority of physicians’ views. A recent survey found that only 13 percent of doctors surveyed agreed with the AMA’s position.

The AMA is supposed to represent the views of physicians, right? But for years membership, which represents less than one-third of U.S. physicians, has been slipping.

So perhaps it comes with little surprise that in the most recent healthcare reform debate, the AMA apparently did not represent the majority of physicians’ views. A survey published in the June 10 New England Journal of Medicine found that only 13 percent of doctors surveyed agreed with the AMA’s position, MedPage Today reports.

However, the first time these same authors took this survey last September, they found the AMA’s position was in fact in line with most docs. But the way their stance was defined then was different. And AMA President James Rohack, MD, said this survey used old data and misclassified the group’s position.

Apparently there was some discrepancy in the idea of supporting the public option, which was in the House version of the bill last fall which the AMA supported. And at that time most docs supported a public option. But the AMA has said it would oppose a public option if it reimbursed docs at Medicare rates, MedPage Today explains. In the end, the group hailed the passing of the law as a victory.

All of this contention really raises the question of the value of the AMA, which has been so vocal during the reform debate. A comment on Facebook in response to Bob Keaveney’s recent post about the AMA’s ad campaign was: “The AMA has been lame for years. Decades, perhaps. Their focus has been on the wrong issues at times. This is one of them.”

Of course, with some 240,000 members, the AMA isn’t going to accurately represent every doctor’s view. And the AMA is not the only physician organization, but one problem is that the general public thinks the AMA does fairly represent the majority of (if not all) physicians. And physicians clearly need a powerful voice in Washington. A Physicians Practice article early last year noted that an individual doc has little influence and may need the support of a larger organization. So what's the solution?