The American Medical Association suffered a second major credibility setback last week when a key senator accused the association of exaggerating physicians' administrative burden.
The first occurred earlier this month when it was disclosed that the AMA's plan to save Medicare would boost payments to physicians by nearly $15 billion while trimming reimbursement to other providers (July 3, p. 8).
The new boner stems from a Senate Finance Committee hearing earlier this year at which AMA Vice Chairman of the Board Nancy Dickey, M.D., said Medicare was in need of reform partially because physicians now spend "over 25%" of their time processing paperwork and complying with federal regulations.
When Dickey was asked for proof of the 25% figure, she said that the AMA would provide it to the committee.
However, according to New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the ranking Democrat on the committee, the AMA overstated the amount of time physicians spend on paperwork.
"The only data you did provide, generated from the 1993 AMA survey of physicians, demonstrates that only 5% of the time spent by those physicians surveyed was consumed with utilization review, claims and billing," Moynihan said in a July 13 letter to the AMA that surfaced last week on Capitol Hill.
Moynihan called the AMA-supplied documentation a "collection of irrelevant anecdotes" with data that not only failed to substantiate the association's claims but contradicted them.
An AMA spokeswoman said the organization wouldn't comment on the letter but admitted the 25% figure was incorrect.
At a recent hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee's health subcommittee, ranking Democratic Rep. Fortney "Pete" Stark of California blasted the AMA's Medicare reform proposal for including additional physician spending of $14.5 billion over seven years while reducing spending on hospitals, home-care providers, nursing homes and program beneficiaries by nearly $130 billion.