Lately I have been discussing American Medical Association (AMA) membership with various people, and the responses I get are very interesting. There is a flood of feelings that exude from normally calm individuals when the AMA is mentioned. It has become a sociology experiment to see what responses I will receive when the AMA is mentioned. As a researcher of sorts, I started to ponder the issue further: Why are so many people upset with the AMA? Does the AMA represent physicians? Does it represent me? If I’m forced to acknowledge the importance of the AMA, what can be done to improve it?
Why Are Physicians Upset?
Some of the overwhelming responses I’ve received from physicians focus on the AMA’s stance on hot-button issues. For example, there seems to be a lot of angst about the AMA’s position on healthcare reform—and in many cases the anxiety started way before the Affordable Care Act discussion began. The physician community, much like the rest of the United States, is divided on healthcare reform. Other rheumatologists comment that the AMA is too concerned about surgical specialties or, conversely, too concerned about primary care. This is interesting because it would be virtually impossible for the AMA to be pro–primary care and pro–surgical specialties at the same time.
After 27 years in practice, it has become common nature for me to see a problem and want to fix it. So, what can be done to “fix” the AMA? First, let’s dig deeper, look at the “problems” that need fixing. Why was the decision made to support aspects of the Affordable Care Act? It wasn’t just a few physicians sitting around in a room making these decisions. The decisions were made by physicians in various practice settings across the United States voting in a democratic fashion. If the AMA isn’t representing you or me, one possible explanation is that so many of us have left the AMA; therefore our voices are no longer heard and the only voice left is that of “one type of physician.”