Maine vs. Florida in War of Words Over AMA, Health Reform

September 28, 2010
Keith L. Martin

Physicians in The Sunshine State and The Pine Tree State are engaged in an interesting back-and-forth over the American Medical Association and national healthcare reform. You may remember back in August that the Florida Medical Association (FMA) avoided a vote to end its relationship with the AMA over the national body's perceived inaction when it came to the Affordable Care Act.

Update: Blog entry updated with link to MMA's letter to American Medical Association.

Physicians in The Sunshine State and The Pine Tree State are engaged in an interesting back-and-forth over the American Medical Association and national healthcare reform.

You may remember back in August that the Florida Medical Association (FMA) avoided a vote to end its relationship with the AMA over the national body's perceived inaction when it came to the Affordable Care Act. Rather than disassociate itself from the AMA, Florida's group sent off a stern letter, penned by its president, Madelyn E. Butler, expressing its message of "no confidence" in the association.

In the letter, Butler noted that the FMA's House of Delegates found that, "when it had the opportunity, the AMA leadership did not stand up for meaningful tort reform, or take appropriate action to ensure passage of a better bill that would have put patients in charge of their medical care, with physicians as their trusted advisors."

The letter also noted an FMA policy "demanding" the AMA "take aggressive action" giving Medicare patients the ability to privately contract with their physicians without sacrificing their federal benefits.

Thus ended the scolding of the AMA …but began the scolding of the FMA.

Recently, the Maine Medical Association (MMA) fired off a letter of its own to the AMA, criticizing the actions of their peers in Florida, according to the Maine Public Broadcasting Network. You can read the whole letter here.

Dr. Jo Linder, president of the MMA, wrote in a letter of support to the AMA that "now is not the time to squander our influence in petty bickering" and that "a divided medical community will not be relevant," according to the radio station. She urged all medical associations to work together to play a role in national health reform to aid patients and policymakers alike.

OK, end of story, right? Nope.

In response to Maine's letter, Timothy J. Stapleton, executive vice president of the FMA, said in a statement to Physicans Practice that the MMA "is entitled to their opinion and we would hope that they would respect the right of other state medical associations to express our opinion."

Stapleton went on to deem the medical community in Maine as "homogenous," and a much different environment than the one Florida physicians work in every day.

"Maine Medical Association represents around 2,000 physicians," Stapleton said. "With all due respect, we have several counties in Florida that have more physicians than the entire State of Maine."

Stapleton said the AMA should treat his association's letter as "an opportunity to get better rather than circling the wagons and attempting to squash a dissenting point of view," adding that "strong organizations are not afraid of allowing the very people they claim to represent to express their views."

The AMA did not respond to a request to comment on Stapleton's statement, nor did the MMA. An AMA representative did tell the Maine Public Broadcasting Network it appreciated the support of Maine physicians in their letter.

A piece of advice to the AMA: At your next event, I wouldn't sit the physicians from Maine next to the doctors from Florida. They will not be debating which state is the better summer vacation spot.