That raucous exercise in democracy, the American Medical Association's annual House of Delegates meeting, takes place this week with issues such as credentialing, unionization and Medicare topping the agenda.
Some 475 delegates will consider more than 95 reports and 187 resolutions over the five-day Chicago event. Most resolutions won't make it out of the group's subcommittees and onto the floor for a vote.
Delegates will consider a proposal from the New Jersey delegation that the AMA hire a celebrity spokesperson such as Gen. Colin Powell or former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley to counter the sports figures hired by the managed-care industry.
Another resolution would direct the AMA to develop a "politician healthcare profile" on the Internet that would list votes by members of Congress.
In addition to dozens of public safety items ranging from the use of pins on retail clothing to the need for protective barriers between professional athletes and fans, delegates will consider their own professional futures. A slew of diverse ideas address how to increase physician power in the face of managed care and government spending controls.
Some of the resolutions on the table call for the AMA to:
Urge Congress to include graduate medical education funding for children's teaching hospitals as part of any new GME funding mechanism.
Study the advantages and disadvantages of retaining separate funding sources and payment administrations for Medicare Parts A and B.
Study contractual arrangements and practice needs of physicians who sell their practices to hospitals or corporations.
Declare the National Committee for Quality Assurance incompetent to determine criteria for physician credentialing.
Recommend that the NCQA's role be replaced by an AMA-sponsored quality-of-care review.
Seek means to remove restrictions for physicians to form collective bargaining units.
Promote the concept that antitrust laws should not apply to negotiations between healthcare professionals and managed-care organizations.
Educate members on the legal and professional implications of physician unionization.
Seek increased federal research on the quality of managed-care plans.
One report recommends establishing an AMA section for international medical graduates. As part of its efforts to enhance diversity, the AMA will establish a Women's Physician Congress and a Consortium on Minority Affairs on a trial basis.
Another report recommends revising the AMA's model state legislation on the restructuring of not-for-profit organizations to stock companies to reflect varying types of conversions.