A committee charged with studying a proposed consolidation of the AMA with state and specialty societies will recommend later this month that the plan be dropped, members of that committee are saying.
The Committee for the Organization of Organizations, representing the AMA and state and specialty societies, will release its report at the AMA's annual meeting later this month for a vote by its House of Delegates, says James Martin, M.D., president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Radically changing the AMA's structure, an idea that was years in the making, "has kind of gone away," says Martin, whose group was one of the strongest proponents of the change and participated in the planning committee.
AMA officials declined to comment, saying they will not discuss the report in advance.
They say the report will be released on June 14 and debated in a reference committee two days later. It will be voted on during the same meeting by the full House of Delegates, which is made up of representatives from the same organizations that will recommend dropping the idea.
Under the original proposal, meant to save the AMA from ongoing membership losses, the AMA would have reduced operations, stopped collecting dues and received funding from state and specialty societies.
The AMA says representatives of 130 state and specialty societies made up the planning committee. They met in two parts, with societies based in the West meeting in Los Angeles in February and those based in the East meeting in Washington, D.C., in March.
They then chose a subcommittee of about 15 members to write their report, says Daniel Ostergaard, M.D., an AAFP vice president who says he was on that subcommittee.
The final blow was that the societies "didn't want to make a long-term commitment" of funds to the AMA, Ostergaard says.
"Many of them were prepared to commit for one year or three years, but not for five years or 10 years," he says. "So there wasn't going to be enough money to become an org of orgs."
Lack of funding was already evident last December, when an AMA-commissioned survey showed that the societies would commit $10 million in funding to replace $50 million in AMA dues income.
The AMA was supposed to reduce expenses by dropping some activities, but AMA representatives never publicly specified what would be dropped.
In turn, the societies were supposed to save money by consolidating national advocacy activities under the AMA, but specialty society representatives said they would not close their Washington offices.
Martin adds that society representatives were also concerned that they might have to give up their political action committees, because lawyers said federal law might require just one PAC for the whole organization of organizations.
For now, the AMA seems to be coping well with its ongoing membership loss without reorganizing.
According to the AMA's recently released annual report for 2002, membership revenues were $4.3 million below 2001 levels, but the organization actually posted a $11.7 million operating profit for the year, thanks to increased revenues from services and continued belt-tightening.
While replacing lost membership revenue with funds from services might be a good short-term solution, Ostergaard says that "the question becomes, is the AMA a membership association or a trade association?"