Thursday, June 11, 2009

AMA to Rename Itself "The Greedy Bastards Club"

UPDATE! Less than a day after announcing that it opposed health care reform, the AMA is backing away from that position. They deserve credit for doing the right thing, even if has more to do with fear of being left out of negotiations than any real change of heart.


True to form, the American Medical Association has come out against Obama's health care reform plan. The AMA has a very long, if not exactly proud, history of opposing any effort to extend health care to the poor, the elderly, or the uninsured. Here's what the president of the AMA said in his 1963 Congressional testimony about the proposal to create Medicare:
[Hospital insurance for the aged is not] "only unnecessary, but also dangerous to the basic principles underlying our American system of medical care."1
The AMA was so concerned about the dangers of helping sick old people that they even cut a secret deal with the tobacco industry to downplay the risks of smoking in return for tobacco state congressmen agreeing to vote against Medicare!2 As the head of the British Tobacco Association observed at the time, "The AMA appears more concerned with safeguarding the financial interests of doctors through political lobbying than with the doctor's patients." It's been almost fifty years, but apparently not much has changed.

Look, I understand that the AMA's basic job is to protect doctor's earnings. I don't expect them to lead the charge for reform; they have a mighty sweet deal under our current system. But I thought they'd show some decency and at least stay out of the way this time around. Nobody knows better than the AMA's members that we that spend twice as much money per capita on health care than any other country. They see it in their paychecks every month. Yet even with all that money, twenty to thirty percent of Americans lack access to basic care because they're uninsured or underinsured and simply can't afford it.

It's time for the AMA to realize that American doctors won't do well unless America does well. We can't continue spending more and more on what is arguably the world's least efficient health care system. It's bankrupting us, and making it increasingly difficult for American business to compete against countries with much less costly "socialized" medicine. The AMA is killing the goose that laid their golden egg, and we'll all pay the price for their greed.

1. The Politics of Medicare, second edition, by Theodore R. Marmor, p28.
2. A Question of Intent, by David Kessle, p207.