Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Specialty Organizations Key to AMA Reform Plan. (Would Move Away from Voluntary Model)

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Specialty Organizations Key to AMA Reform Plan. (Would Move Away from Voluntary Model)

Article excerpt

CHICAGO -- The American Medical Association at its annual meeting in June embarked on what is certain to be a long and bumpy transition to a coalition-based organization.

After hours of deliberation, the House of Delegates approved a comprehensive report designed to unify organized medicine and energize the profession.

While reaffirming the AMA's role as the umbrella voice of organized medicine, delegates voted to establish a special committee that would help transition the AMA from a voluntary membership model to "an organization of organizations." This means that specialty and state societies, rather than individual physicians, would compose units of membership.

The committee has 1 year to develop a business plan and report back to delegates in June 2003 on the cost impact of such a transition and the implications to membership at all levels.

The hope is to unify a fragmented House of Delegates and boost membership rolls--which dropped by 4% from 2000 to 2001, representing a loss of 12,000 physicians. "It's time we stopped giving lip service to the concept of unity and started living it," said Dr. Richard Corlin, immediate past president of the AMA.

The major specialty groups that pushed for the "organization of organizations" format were pleased with the results of the report. The fact that the AMA only represents 22% of physicians "is a concern that needs to be addressed," Dr. James Scully, chair of the American Psychiatric Association delegation to the AMA, told this newspaper. Considering that most physicians these days identify themselves through their specialty group, an organization-based format sounds like a good idea, Dr. Scully said.

Under this approach, every physician would be represented both geographically and by specialty. State medical associations, however, were concerned that they might lose members who would object to joining the AMA by default.

Money was another issue--how membership dues would be decided for physicians who belong to multiple societies. Specialty or state organizations may have to pay as much as $100 for each of their members to join the AMA. If that's the case, the Georgia Medical Association would have to pony up $700,000 to the AMA, "and no state medical society has that kind of money," said Bill Clark, general counsel and director of government relations for GMA. …

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