Proudly not a member since 1999

So I see (via Political Animal) that the American Medical Association has taken its typical obstructionist stance on government-sponsored health insurance. From the Times:
As the health care debate heats up, the American Medical Association is letting Congress know that it will oppose creation of a government-sponsored insurance plan, which President Obama and many other Democrats see as an essential element of legislation to remake the health care system.

The opposition, which comes as Mr. Obama prepares to address the powerful doctors’ group on Monday in Chicago, could be a major hurdle for advocates of a public insurance plan. The A.M.A., with about 250,000 members, is America’s largest physician organization.


[I]n comments submitted to the Senate Finance Committee, the American Medical Association said: “The A.M.A. does not believe that creating a public health insurance option for non-disabled individuals under age 65 is the best way to expand health insurance coverage and lower costs. The introduction of a new public plan threatens to restrict patient choice by driving out private insurers, which currently provide coverage for nearly 70 percent of Americans.”
The AMA, it should be noted, is not a professional organization the way that, say, the American Academy of Pediatrics is. Though it publishes a well-respected journal, its mission is not to improve the standard of care for America's patients. Its mission is to lobby on behalf of its physician member. Sometimes those goals intersect (such as with the expansion of S-CHIP), and sometimes they don't. I am not a member for many reasons, one of which is that the organization makes money by selling data about what physicians are prescribing to pharmaceutical companies, the better for them to market their new, expensive medications, which is a practice I find objectionable.

The reason the AMA is opposed to government-sponsored health insurance is that they are afraid that this will result in lower payments for doctors. In order to compete with a government-sponsored plan, private insurance companies will have to become more efficient, and may do so by cutting their own payments to providers. The AMA doesn't want this.

While I cannot find any citation to back this up (so take it with a grain of salt), it is my understanding that AMA membership is skewed toward surgeons and sub-specialists, who make a lot more than primary care providers (like Yours Truly) and are more likely to see their compensation cut, both in terms of fee for services and approved referrals. It is not surprising that they would thus urge their lobbyists to work against it. However:
The A.M.A., an umbrella group for 180 medical societies, does not speak for all doctors. One group, Physicians for a National Health Program, supports a single-payer system of insurance, in which a single public agency would pay for health services, but most care would still be delivered by private doctors and hospitals. In recent years, some doctors have become so fed up with the administrative hassles of private insurance that they are looking for alternatives.
Our system of healthcare is incontrovertibly broken. By clinging to the outmoded model we have currently, the AMA is making it unclear if they are part of the solution, or part of the problem.


  1. How are they making it unclear? it seems fairly clear they are part of the problem!

  2. Let me mention again that the President's Council of Economic Advisors just reported that "nearly 30 percent of Medicare's costs could be sved without adverse health consequences." If Mr. Obama can demostrate the value of Smart Government by reducing Medicare's budget by even 25%, I'll sign on board for the full meal deal. Until then, I remain opposed to Mr. Obama running national healthcare in addition to GM, Chrysler, Bank of America, Citicorp, and the normal workload of a US president.