As the American Medical Association prepares for its annual meeting next month in Chicago, its recently released 2009 annual report paints a fairly optimistic picture for the 163-year-old organization.
More AMA money, but ...
... membership declines, margin lags '07: report
The AMA experienced a relatively strong financial rebound despite a loss in revenue and a continued decline in membership, which some say was caused in part by the association’s support of healthcare reform.
For the 10th-straight year, the AMA operated in the black and, more significantly, its $16.5 million profit margin was more than six times the $2.5 million it made in 2008. But, to put things in perspective, the 2009 figure is still 32.4% lower than the $24.4 million it made in 2007 and 45.5% lower than the $30.3 million it made in 2006.
It should also be noted that the profit was due to, in large part, spending cuts. Revenue was down by $13.4 million as publishing operations saw a $7.7 million decline in advertising and money from membership dues was $1.7 million less than the year before.
According to the report, membership declined almost 3.4% to 228,000 from the 236,000 reported the previous year—which itself was about a 2% decline from the 241,000 reported for 2007. (The 2007 membership figure is notable in that it marked the first time in seven years that membership increased, to 241,000 from almost 239,000 for about a 1% jump. But that boost was achieved by a giving away 8,577 free memberships for first-year residents who had been student members the previous year.)
Membership dues account for about 16% of AMA revenue, the report stated, and the $42.2 million collected in 2009 was almost 3.9% lower than the $43.9 million collected in 2008.
“The slight dip in the AMA’s 2009 membership is consistent with recent annual trends,” according to an e-mail statement from the AMA, attributed to board member Robert Wah. “We are committed to increasing the AMA’s value to physicians, especially in the important areas of practice management, health information technology, advocacy and public health. Our solid financial footing creates a firm foundation for the future and provides us with the resources needed to identify and expand our array of member benefits that appeal most to physicians as we help doctors help patients.”
This “slight dip,” however, may have implications for representation in the House of Delegates as several state medical societies saw significant percentages of their members bail out of the AMA over disagreement with its support of the health reform law.
Among the multitude of resolutions to be discussed at the annual meeting June 12-16 will be one calling for freezing the current representation in the House of Delegates for five years. It was jointly introduced by the state delegations of Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee, plus the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, American Society of General Surgeons and Congress of Neurological Surgeons.
By percentage, the states losing the most AMA members were South Carolina, where 14% or 578 of its members quit, and Florida, which had 13% or 1,620 doctors quit the AMA. Florida’s dropout figure was the highest, followed by California, where 860 doctors quit resulting in a 5% drop in the state’s AMA membership. (A representative of the Florida Medical Association could not be reached for comment.)
In contrast to how individual physicians continue to show less and less interest in joining the AMA, there is continued pressure from specialty and subspecialty societies that want to be included in the AMA’s House of Delegates, an AMA governing body. A quiet controversy continues to simmer on this issue as there are a fixed number of geographically based organizations—the 50 state medical societies, plus organizations representing physicians from the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands—and a growing number of specialty and subspecialty organizations.
According to the AMA, the annual report includes information from across the various entities within AMA operations and can vary greatly from the organization’s 990 tax form, which it said includes only information on the organization’s not-for-profit enterprises. On its 2008 Form 990, the AMA reported a $21.3 million loss compared with a $31.4 million profit in 2007.
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