Less than meets the eye in AMA membership bump

Getting excited about the American Medical Association's 1% increase in membership is almost like getting riled up about the Chicago White Sox getting back to .500 after a three-game sweep of the Cubs.

By winning three straight over their cross-town rivals on the North Side, Chicago's South Side baseball team is now officially mediocre with a record of 21 wins and 21 losses.

The same level of sarcastic euphoria could be viewed by the membership numbers in the latest AMA annual report, which showed an increase from 215,854 members to roughly 217,000 in 2011.

At the same time, however, revenue from membership dues declined almost 1.6% to $37.5 million from $38.1 million in 2010. According to the report, the loss was caused by six states dropping out of a joint membership marketing agreement. The upward bump also apparently came from group and medical resident memberships; dues for these are not as high.

The report did note that membership "increased for the first time in years." Actually, that would be since 2007, when a deal that gave free memberships to first-year residents who had been student members led to 8,577 new, non-dues-paying members and resulted in the first membership increase in seven years.

So, despite last year’s boost, membership in the AMA has fallen almost 10% since the 241,000 figure registered for 2007.

But while less than a quarter of the country's doctors now belong to the AMA, more than half of those on the latest Modern Healthcare/Modern Physician 50 Most Influential Physician Executives list belong to the AMA.

Along with board Chairman Dr. Robert Wah and Executive Vice President and CEO Dr. James Madara, the AMA released this list of its members who made the most-influential list:

Georges Benjamin, executive director, American Public Health Association; Regina Benjamin, U.S. surgeon general; Mark Chassin, president, Joint Commission; Carolyn Clancy, director, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; Francis Collins, director, National Institutes of Health; Paul Convery, senior vice president and chief medical officer, Baylor Health Care System; Lanny Copeland, CMO, LifePoint Hospitals; Delos "Toby" Cosgrove, president and CEO, Cleveland Clinic; Harvey Fineberg, president, Institute of Medicine, Washington; Brent James, chief quality officer, Intermountain Healthcare; Gary Kaplan, chairman and CEO, Virginia Mason Medical Center; Darrell Kirch, president and CEO, Association of American Medical Colleges; John Koster, president and CEO, Providence Health & Services; David Nash, founding dean, Jefferson School of Population Health; John Noseworthy, president and CEO, Mayo Clinic; Barbara Paul, senior vice president and CMO, Community Health Systems; Glenn Steele Jr., president and CEO, Geisinger Health System; Eric Topol, chief academic officer, Scripps Health; Reed Tuckson, executive vice president and chief of medical affairs, UnitedHealth Group; Nicholas Turkal, president and CEO, Aurora Health Care; Susan Turney, president and CEO, MGMA-ACMPE; Robert Wachter, chief of hospital medicine, UCSF Medical Center; Laurence Wellikson, CEO, Society of Hospital Medicine; and Nicholas Wolter, CEO, Billings Clinic.

Follow Andis Robeznieks on Twitter: @MHARobeznieks.