A commentary on the Failings/Successes of Congress and the Administration, and Other Issues of Interest!
-- Mindless & Spineless is in reference to the majority of House and Senate members!
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Don’t Let This Happen To Your Profession: AMA Culpable In Our Government Healthcare Fiasco
by Austin Hill
If you think Obamacare is bad for
consumers and patients think about this: how would you like to spend between
twelve and sixteen years of your life in grueling and expensive academic
training, only to have politicians and bureaucrats dictating to you years later
how you will practice your craft and how much money you’ll be allowed to
Let’s be clear about medical doctors.
Any individual who can genuinely earn the title “M.D.” is worthy of significant
respect, and one would hope that an entire association of M.D.’s would be
equally as worthy. Unfortunately the American Medical Association – the
professional group that has purported to represent physicians in the U.S. for
over a century - managed to foolishly get itself caught in the crossfire of the
“Obamacare” war over the past few years. Now, MD’s – both those few who remain
members of the AMA and the majority of physicians who are not members – as well
as the practice of medicine itself, are all set to be big losers in the coming
months and years.
According to their website, the
association’s stated mission is “to promote the art and science of medicine for
the betterment of the public health; to advance the interests of physicians and
their patients; to promote public health; to lobby for legislation favorable to
physicians and patients; and to raise money for medical education.” It is also
noteworthy that the group originally opposed Medicare, the U.S. federal
government’s program that provides healthcare reimbursements for elderly and
disabled persons, fearing that “undue government intrusion” in the medical
profession would damage the doctor-patient relationship and be detrimental to
the profession itself.
But soon after Medicare’s beginnings in
1965, the A.M.A. changed their position. The association’s members and
leadership both realized that government-funded health care through Medicare
produced a steady stream of patients and more guaranteed reimbursements for
services – in short Medicare in its early days guaranteed wages for MD’s. Thus
for all of my lifetime, the A.M.A. has aggressively lobbied the U.S. Congress
against cuts in Medicare funding as they have periodically been
Over the years the A.M.A. has also
supported tight government limits on medical school entries – likely because
doing so limited the “supply” of new M.D.’s, drove up the demand for existing
MD’s, and thereby enhanced the wages of those who actually managed to get in to
the profession. On this point the late Economist Milton Freidman once noted that
the A.M.A. had become a “guild,” and was shielding its present-day members from
the potential competition of future would-be Doctors.
Yet after decades of love and
appreciation for the ways in which big government can shelter you from market
competition and put money in your pocket, and with its membership dramatically
in decline, the A.M.A. changed its public policy stance in mid-2009. After only
a few months of President Obama in the White House, it was at that time that the
association reverted back to being skeptical of government power, and publicly
opposed President Obama’s healthcare “reforms”.
The federal government had at that point
been exhibiting a years-long pattern of dictating to physicians how much they
would be paid for specific procedures (rather than allowing doctors to set their
own rates for services), and A.M.A. membership had begun to dwindle party as a
result of this loss. The association thus surmised that Obamacare would give the
government even more power to determine how much doctors could be paid, and told
the President “no” regarding his early legislative efforts.
But months later the A.M.A. changed
their minds again. Facing pressure from both the White House, and President
Obama’s “Organizing for America” community organizer group, the A.M.A. hedged a
bit back in 2010 and sheepishly agreed to Obama’s reforms “in principle.” This
caused even more member physicians to leave the association, even as the
President portrayed it as a “courageous” move.
But wait, there’s more! In June of 2012,
less than four months before the presidential election, the A.M.A. changed its
collective minds yet again, when the association’s President Dr. Peter Carmel
announced their “official” renewed opposition to Obamacare. At the association’s
annual summer convention, Carmel declared what many of us had been concerned
about for quite some time; that placing more government bureaucrats and lawyers
between a patient and a physician, Obamacare would make healthcare more
expensive and less rewarding for all involved. Further, Carmel noted that
President Obama’s law does not address the dwindling of Medicare reimbursements
to M.D.’s, nor does it address the ever-escalating threat of medical malpractice
lawsuits, a major source of healthcare cost increases.
And now here we are, a little more than
a year after the A.M.A. “officially” decided that Obamcare was a bad deal, and
we’re all experiencing the anguish of the federal take-over of the medical
profession. The otherwise honorable and essential work of high educated
physicians will be gradually replaced with less educated and less costly nurses
and “P.A.’s” (physician’s assistants); existing physicians will have their
reimbursement rates further reduced; veteran doctors are already leaving the
profession or abandoning their small private practices to find a job at larger
hospitals and corporately owned facilities; and some physicians are fighting to
continue practicing their craft entirely apart from any involvement with
insurance companies (check out the website Iwantdirectcare.com for evidence of
healthcare without insurance).
Thomas Jefferson once famously said that “a
government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big
enough to take away everything that you have."The A.M.A.’s
flirtation with the guarantee of patients via Medicare, and the present-day
derailing of the medical profession via Obamacare, illustrates Jefferson’s
wisdom quite vividly.
A.M.A.’s foolishness demonstrates the destructive combination of being high
trained in one’s profession, yet not comprehending the most basic facets of
government, economics, and public policy.