The American Medical Association is all over the media as representing the voice of doctors. Even politicians cite AMA statistics in driving healthcare policy. But, the fact is, physicians disagree. We do not believe the AMA represents us in anything, and doctors left their memberships in large numbers. In fact, it is estimated that only 15-18% of doctors in the US are paying members of the AMA. In one study conducted by Jackson and Coker, only 11% of physicians who responded believe the AMA stand for the views of doctors.
Where did the AMA go astray on the path of representing physicians?
1. Perhaps the biggest example of how doctors lost their trust in the AMA is the way they are funded. With less than 20% of US doctors paying membership dues, it is apparent they secure funding from other sources. One of their biggest streams or revenue is their profits from selling billing coding, insurance, and other products. Most doctors disagree with the CPT-10 billing transformation. Yet, the AMA continues to profit hugely from selling these products despite our protests. Clearly, doctors’ opinions have been shoved under foot in their quest to drive profits.
2. The AMA is very ineffective at lobbying. One of the greatest examples can be seen in the SGR debacle playing out over decades. They were unable to change or influence any policy change. In fact, doctors feel that they sided with the politicians more often that with practicing doctors. Again, we were not represented by the AMA here.
3. Doctors feel abused by insurance company policies. Reimbursements have been shrinking and often we are fighting to get paid for services we have provided. Here too, the AMA has offered little help. This is perhaps one of the biggest factors driving doctors out of private practice. Yet, they stand mute on slowing down the flow of doctors out of their own practices.
4. Mandates coming out of the government are intruding into the practice of medicine. The AMA does not hear doctors’ concerns here but rather stands for itself. They throw their weight behind the politicians they chose rather than the mass of physicians. We feel the AMA would sell us out in a heartbeat.
5. The media often quotes the AMA as being the voice of doctors. Yet, less than 20% of physicians in our country are even members. When doctors see these things in the media, it further tears down our trust because we have not been asked where we stand on the issues. While, they are speaking up that they are representing us. No, they are not and the media and general public need to learn that the AMA no longer represents the majority of doctors in the US. Perhaps, it is time for them to investigate what they have done to drive doctors away.
The healthcare landscape in the US is rapidly evolving. Many changes appeared that are harmful to our profession and patients alike. Doctors have no organization that truly represents what we are going through and none to drive truly beneficial reform. While doctors burn out from lack of guidance and enforced compliance with unreasonable mandates and guidelines driving insurance company profits, the AMA speaks out while ignoring our plight and our voices. The AMA is not the voice of doctors and it is time that people stop recognizing them as something other than a political organization shaping reforms and selling products off the backs of doctors for their own agendas and profits. Does anyone know an organization that is willing to stand up and be the real voice of doctors and help mold real healthcare reform?
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Dr. Linda Girgis MD, FAAFP, is a family physician in South River, New Jersey. She holds board certification from the American Board of Family Medicine and is affiliated with St. Peter’s University Hospital and Raritan Bay Hospital. Dr. Girgis earned her medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine. She completed her internship and residency at Sacred Heart Hospital, through Temple University and she was recognized as intern of the year. Over the course of her practice, Dr. Girgis has continued to earn awards and recognition from her peers and a variety of industry bodies, including: Patients’ Choice Award, 2011-2012, Compassionate Doctor Recognition, 2011-2012. Dr. Girgis’ primary goal as a physician remains ensuring that each of her patients receives the highest available standard of medical care.