Does the AMA still represent your interests? Most survey respondents say no

September 14, 2011

The American Medical Association?s membership has been on a downward slide, and a new survey suggests that AMA?s support of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a key reason. Read more to find out the other reasons why a large majority of physicians no longer belong to what historically has been the dominant medical association in the United States.

The American Medical Association’s (AMA) support of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) has alienated physicians, and many say that the AMA no longer represents their views or interests, according to a new survey.

Some 1,611 physicians responded to the August questionnaire from Jackson & Coker, the physician recruitment firm, with 70% saying they disagreed with AMA’s position on health reform.

Of those who had dropped AMA membership, 47% said the AMA’s support of PPACA was the reason. Other reasons given for leaving the association were that the AMA does not speak for practicing physicians (72%), and the association’s current procedural terminology (CPT) code business is a conflict of interest (53%).

A spokesman for Peter Carmel, MD, AMA president, told Medical Economics eConsult that Carmel does not think the survey results are credible.“The extremely low response rate and the type of survey conducted make it difficult to claim this is representative of all physicians,” Carmel said through the spokesman. “The AMA recognizes that physicians’ attitudes around health system reform are diverse and we are leading the charge during the implementation of the health reform law to advocate for policies that help physicians and patients thrive as we keep moving medicine forward together.”

In the early 1950s, about 75% of physicians in the United States were AMA members, but the percentage has steadily decreased, according to an article published recently in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. At the annual meeting of its House of Delegates, the AMA announced that it lost another 12,000 members last year, pushing total membership below 216,000, and a third of those members do not pay the full $420 annual dues, the article stated. It said that full dues-paying members represent only about 15% of practicing physicians in this country.

In its most recent annual report, the AMA said that membership dues revenue decreased by $4.2 million in 2010, down 9.9%. The report said that 3.8% of the drop was due to nine states opting out of the federation membership marketing agreement and two states dropping unified dues rates.

Just 15% of survey respondents said they feel as if the AMA is a strong advocate for physician issues, whereas 77% said the group does not represent their views.

“The physicians we polled say the AMA is no longer the voice of their profession,” said Sandy Garrett, Jackson & Coker’s president.

Physicians responding to the poll also took issue with the AMA’s lobbying efforts, with 72% saying the group does not do enough to promote tort reform, 78% saying it does not do a good job preventing government intrusion into the practice of medicine, and 75% saying it does not protect doctors from insurance company abuses.

The survey, distributed to more than 111,000 physicians, had a margin of error of plus or minus 1.59%.

“Physicians in our nation face a variety of challenges and opportunities. They hold a wide range of views that reflect the diversity of the profession and are not easily summarized from the small group who chose to respond to this survey,” Carmel said.

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