After more than 150 years in Chicago, the American Medical Association is considering pulling up stakes and moving to Washington, D.C. The physician group's 1,000 local employees were told this fall that the AMA board is weighing the benefits of moving all or some of the staff to the nation's capital, where the association already has an office.
Talk of such a move has swirled around the AMA's State Street headquarters for years, ever since the American Hospital Association began moving staffers from Chicago to Washington in the 1990s. Now, some AMA members are pushing the group to act, arguing that the association should be headquartered closer to Congress and the federal agencies that influence physician fees and practices.
As a result of that request, "We put together a proposal . . . that would move a portion of the AMA to D.C. and presented that to the board of trustees," says CEO Michael Maves, M.D.
The 21-member board, in turn, has asked for a more detailed analysis of the cost and benefits of such a move. Maves declined to say when the final report will be prepared for the board.
"It's more than just tallying up people and giving them a plane ticket," he says.
Indeed, the association has yet to decide how much of the office it would move, if any. The first proposal shown to board members in October outlined a plan to move an unspecified portion of the staff--rumored to be the senior executives--to Washington. The AMA is also considering moving the entire staff.
"At one extreme, you could change the letterhead and satisfy (some members). At the other extreme, you move everybody, lock, stock and barrel and close the doors on State Street," Maves says.
AMA members from the association's North Carolina delegation last year called on the group to study and plan for "an orderly relocation" to Washington. The North Carolina delegates want AMA staffers to be closer to policymakers, if it is financially feasible.
If it made such a move, the association would have to sublease its offices at 515 N. State St., a building it leases from Chicago-based real estate firm John Buck Co. The AMA's lease, for about 60% of the building's 622,000 square feet, runs for at least another decade.
Any move requires the approval of the AMA's House of Delegates, which meets twice a year.
The notion of moving offices "makes a lot of sense," says Sandra Renner, the Bethesda, Md.-based vice president and regional director of Alford Group, a consulting firm for non-profits. Not only would the AMA have access to policymakers, but also other physician groups and social events--where much business in Washington is done.
"There is a whole party circuit, a whole charity circuit. If you are not here, you can't go to those things," Ms. Renner says.
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