Members of the American Group Practice Association and the Unified Medical Group Association have ratified a merger of their organizations.
The union, approved by 95% of those who voted, will be effective July 1.
The new American Medical Group Association will represent 350 large group practices and physician-owned and physician-managed independent practice associations, with a total of about 40,000 physicians.
During a news conference last week, leaders said the new organization will provide unparalleled education and advocacy services.
The UMGA represents prepaid, or capitated, medical groups, mainly on the West Coast. It founded an accreditation program for prepaid groups called the Unified Medical Quality Commission, which will continue under the umbrella of the AMGA.
The AGPA has a strong presence on Capitol Hill and maintains an outcomes database holding information from more than 70 medical groups with 15,000 patients.
HealthSystem Minnesota President and Chief Executive Officer James L. Reinertsen, M.D., rattled off the names of 10 prominent multispecialty groups, such as the Cleveland Clinic, the Mayo Clinic, and the Palo Alto Medical Foundation-all of which are AGPA or UMGA members.
"I don't mean to bore you," said Reinertsen, who will be the AMGA's president, "but these are the nation's premier healthcare delivery organizations. These organizations are synonymous with quality."
AMGA groups care for about 10% of the American population, he said.
The go-ahead for the merger was a relief to the AGPA, which failed in 1994 to achieve a merger with the Englewood, Colo.-based Medical Group Management Association. MGMA mainly represents administrators working in a wide variety of practices, including many small groups.
The AGPA and the UMGA stressed their similar missions.
The AMGA will adopt the UMGA's idea of "physician-administrator teams" in which physicians and administrators share governance. More than half of the AMGA's 28 board members will be physicians.
Donald W. Fisher, CEO of the merged organization, said he anticipates little change in staff because few of the 50 total employees have overlapping functions.
The association might add staff in the growing areas of outcomes research and state legislative advocacy, Fisher said.
The UMGA has lobbying efforts in California, Oregon and Washington states, and the AMGA will expand those efforts in states where key legislation is pending and where there is a critical mass of AMGA members, Fisher said.
The new board will meet in early July to reconsider all legislative positions, he said.
"We really welcome the opportunity to get into the state legislative arena because that's where all the reform is taking place at this time," Fisher said.
Turnout for the vote, which was by mail-in ballot, was 46% for AGPA members and 72% for UMGA members.