Health reform law debate leads to a family (physicians) squabble

Debates featuring continued backlash from American Medical Association members over the AMA leadership's support of the healthcare reform law seem to be becoming an annual ritual at the AMA House of Delegates meetings, and the ritual is one that might be repeated at the American Academy of Family Physicians' meetings.

Dr. Glen Stream, the AAFP's president, said he expects discussion of the issue to continue at his organization's Congress of Delegates, scheduled to take place Oct. 15-17 in Philadelphia.

"The political part is still playing out," said Stream, who practices in Spokane, Wash. "Repeal will be a big issue in the election."

He said any large organization contains a spectrum of political views, and the recent Supreme Court ruling "reawakened some controversy" within the academy.

Messages from members who say "I disagree so much that I'm thinking about leaving the organization" frequently appear in Stream's mailbox, but Stream said that AAFP support of the healthcare reform law did not originate as a top-down edict.

"Our policy is created—not by me or the board—but by the Congress of Delegates," Stream said. "That's the process that led us to this point."

So, Stream said, he has a common reply to members who send messages threatening to quit the academy.

"For our organization, the things that hold us together—the shared principles of doing what’s best for our patients—have to be stronger than our individual political differences," Stream said.

Follow Andis Robeznieks on Twitter: @MHARobeznieks.