The American Medical Association has signed a three-year agreement that provides discounted annual dues to about 700 physicians at the Henry Ford Medical Group in Detroit. The deal highlights the AMA's efforts over the past several months to try to build membership after a decline of 11.3%, or about 33,200 members, since 1999. Under the arrangement, which began in July and runs through 2006, the multispecialty medical group will underwrite dues for its physicians, paying the AMA about $300 per year per membership, compared with the standard annual fee of $420 for full membership. Although several other large medical groups are affiliated with the AMA as group members, the agreement with Henry Ford is the first time in recent years that the AMA has publicly announced such a deal. AMA officials said agreements and discounts vary among groups.
Henry Ford paid AMA dues for its doctors up until about three years ago but ended the practice because of economic considerations, among other factors, said Stanton Elias, a neurologist who chairs the group's board of governors. Before the discount was announced, 126 of the group's 702 full-time doctors were AMA members. "We felt that this was an expense that provided value beyond the actual cost," Elias said. -- by Michael Romano