AMA’s Seat at the Table

Scott Becker, an attorney/accountant, writes that last year the American Medical Association (AMA) gave its support to a fledgling health reform process, whose ultimate success was very much in doubt at the time, in return for two basic things: federal tort reform and a permanent fix of Congress’ sustainable growth rate (SGR) threat to reduce Medicare’s physician fees.

Now that health reform has become law, what does the AMA have to show for its early support? No SGR-fix, no tort reform and a number of new payment problems created by the new law. Here are just four examples.

  • a powerful new advisory board that can lower physician fees with little Congressional oversight.
  • an estimated 15 million previously uninsured people who will be covered at very low-paying Medicaid rates.
  • the prospect of intra-professional conflict as Medicare reimbursements for some areas may be raised and, under the zero-sum game of Medicare spending, physician reimbursements will probably fall.
  • the demise of physician-owned hospitals. No new facilities can be built after this year and existing facilities cannot expand upon the date of enactment.

Comments (6)

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  1. Devon Herrick says:

    Special interest groups were duped into believing they could (each) cut exclusive deals not available to other health industry stakeholders in return for supporting health reform. The stakeholders all thought they were buying a “place at the table” not realizing they were on the menu.

  2. Michael Cremer says:

    Well spoken. M.D. v. J.D. politicos = no match.

  3. Rusty W. says:

    The AMA is getting what it deserves, but unfortunately a lot of innocent doctors are being harmed along the way.

  4. Ken says:

    The AMA was told that if they didn’t come to the table and negotiate they would be the lunch. So they bought their seat at the table, and behold: they ended up being the lunch anyway.

  5. John R. Graham says:

    Let’s not assume that the AMA actually represents doctors. It is a business that earns monopoly profits from licensing the codes required for billing in the third-party system (Current Procedural Terminology, or CPT). Plus, the U.S. is converting from ICD-9 to ICD-10 (International Classification of Diseases). Such conversions always offer great opportunities to increase profit.

    The AMA is indifferent to whether physicians can earn a living from Medicare or Medicaid payments. The critical success factor for the AMA is that payers use its licensed systems for billing, which happens if more uninsured people are condemned to Medicaid or ObamaCare’s health-insurance exchanges.

  6. Larry C. says:

    Sorry to see so many good doctors sold out.