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Interest Groups Trade Support for Dollars

The American Medical Association (AMA)

Here again, the AMA has violated every principle it ever stood for. And not just principles, but the direct financial interests of its physician members. The official policy of the AMA is to fix the “Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR)” cuts in Medicare payments. The official policy is opposed to “Pay For Performance” schemes. The official policy is to protect the ability of physicians to practice medicine.

Yet all of these things have been thrown out the window, and the AMA still provides full-throated support to this legislation. Why? Well, for one thing the AMA’s membership is so reduced (it now represents only about 20% of all physicians) that the “real” doctors, i.e., the ones who actually see patients and rely on Medicare for part of their income, are no longer influential in the organization. The rest – corporate medical directors, professors in medical schools, medical students, etc. – aren’t worried that Medicare payments are scheduled for a 21% cut in a few months.

But there is a deeper reason, as well. As the Chicago Tribune reports, the AMA no longer gets most of its income from membership dues, but from having “the exclusive rights to the medical billing codes that doctors are required to use when they submit bills to insurance plans.” This is granted to it by the federal government and started with Medicare billing but was expanded to include private insurers as the result of the standardized billing required by HIPAA. So, the AMA is in fact a “partner” with the federal government. Any expansion of federal health care is a boon to AMA finances.

So, who cares if physicians are hurt? Who cares if their practices are dictated by bureaucrats and their pay is cut? Not the AMA. In fact, the more the federal government does, the richer the AMA gets. You can take that to the bank, too.

SOURCE:

Chicago Tribune

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December 31, 2009 - Posted by | healthcare, physicians | , , ,

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