Fla. docs stay with AMA
State group had joined others to protest reform
The schism between physicians who opposed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the American Medical Association leadership, which supported the law, does not appear to have narrowed.
After lengthy debate, the physician members of the Florida Medical Association recently decided against a proposal to end relations with the AMA. The 20,000-member FMA is just the latest medical society to vent its anger.
Last October, for example, the Mississippi State Medical Association held a special meeting and voted to “de-unify” with AMA, a move that ended a joint membership arrangement between the state and national organizations. According to Anna Morris, the MSMA’s director of external relations, about 80% of the group’s 4,200 members chose not to renew their AMA membership when they renewed with the state organization. Up until then, renewal forms and payments were processed together.
“We still have a good working relationship,” Morris said. “It’s just that particular arrangement is no longer in effect.”
The Florida and Mississippi medical associations are also part of the Coalition of State Medical and National Specialty Societies, a coalition of mostly Southeastern state and surgical specialty societies that promotes freemarket alternatives to the more governmentdriven provisions of the healthcare reform law (See commentary, p. 22).
The closed-door debate in Florida occurred during the FMA’s annual meeting held Aug. 13-15 in Orlando, and the delegates were considering a proposal for the FMA to cease its participation in the AMA’s annual meetings.
Instead, St. Petersburg neurosurgeon David McKalip, who spoke at a Tampa Bay Tea Party event in April, proposed sending a letter of no confidence to the AMA leadership instead. McKalip said that, as the debate went on, it became clear that there was a desire among members to change the AMA rather than sever the relationship with it.
“The AMA does not speak for medicine right now,” McKalip said. And the FMA “doesn’t have confidence in AMA leadership or confidence in their ability to protect the profession of medicine in America.”
The FMA’s new president, Madelyn Butler, said in a news release that it’s important “that Florida’s physicians stay engaged as we develop federal policy and advocacy positions on behalf of organized medicine,” and so “the FMA will continue to send a delegation to the AMA’s annual and interim meetings.”
One of the attendees of the FMA meeting was Tampa orthopedic surgeon Michael Wasylik, who also served as an alternate delegate at the AMA House of Delegates meeting in June. Ultimately, Wasylik said, FMA members did not want to lose their voice in the operation of what is still the nation’s largest physician organization: the 228,000-member AMA. “The AMA is still the brand name and Congress does listen to what the AMA says,” Wasylik said.
Also in attendance was AMA President Cecil Wilson, an internist from Winter Park, Fla., and Wasylik said Wilson “heard doctor after doctor lambaste the AMA leadership.”
In a statement released by the AMA, Wilson said his group is pleased that the Florida association remains part of the “federation of medicine.”
“By working together as a united house of medicine, we will continue to improve our health system for patients and physicians, including fixing the broken Medicare physician payment system and enacting medical liability reforms to keep physicians caring for patients,” the statement said.
Jay Millson, executive vice president of the Duval County Medical Society, said the debate illustrated the discontent Florida doctors had with the AMA leadership for supporting healthcare reform. Millson noted that the AMA put forth principles for healthcare reform and the final legislation contained most of those principles. It did not contain tort reform or changing the Medicare reimbursement formula.
“It’s hard to get them all,” Millson said. “Some felt like we needed them all, but I didn’t think there was enough support to break away.”
Wilson: “We will continue to improve our health system.”