The American Medical Association's support for healthcare reform didn't help it win any popularity contests. But according to the AMA board's recent report (PDF) "AMA Performance, Activities, and Status in 2010," the organization's political relationships have helped it "make meaningful changes" to healthcare regulations in ways that benefited physicians—or, at least, amended regulations that would have hurt them.
AMA wins some, loses some in politics
"This impact was made possible by the strong relationships with the Obama administration and regular opportunities for the AMA to provide input," the report stated. "Despite the divisions that occurred within organized medicine during the HSR (health system reform) debate, AMA staff took advantage of every opportunity to reach consensus and collaborate on issues of mutual interest."
The report's "Federal and State Advocacy" section references other gains as well, including an 88% success rate in backing political candidates. For the 2010 elections, the report stated that the AMA's 50-year-old political action committee, AMPAC, contributed more than $1.2 million to candidates in 355 races and 319 of them won. But whether this success will pay off remains to be seen, as last February a senator whom the AMA generously supported in the past nearly sabotaged attempts to prevent a massive cut in Medicare reimbursement.
Former Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), whom the AMA financially supported over the Democrat, throat surgeon Dan Mongiardo, in Kentucky's 2004 Senate race, filibustered and successfully blocked attempts to prevent a 21.2% Medicare pay cut for doctors that went in effect March 1. A short-term “patch” to the sustainable growth rate formula, which dictates Medicare reimbursement, was then passed March 2, and the pay cut was temporarily held off, no thanks to Bunning.
In 2011, despite the AMA's 88% golden touch, politicians may still be keeping their distance from the organization. On its online news page, AMA Wire, the organization touts how a new bill called the Medicare Patient Empowerment Act—which would allow Medicare patients to use their benefits to reimburse doctors who do not accept Medicare—"is based on policy adopted by the AMA House of Delegates."
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), is a physician and has been known to attend the AMA House of Delegates' annual meeting, but he does not mention the AMA policy in his news release announcing the bill. Neither does the release (PDF) from the Medical Association of Georgia.
The AMA voiced its support anyway.
"The AMA supports the Medicare Patient Empowerment Act, which would create a new payment option that allows seniors to have their choice of physicians while still receiving benefits from the Medicare system they have contributed to for years," said AMA President Dr. Cecil B. Wilson in the AMA Wire brief.
Follow Andis Robeznieks on Twitter: @MHARobeznieks.
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