Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
American Medical Association
The American Medical Association (AMA) is the largest association of medical doctors in the United States. Its purpose is to advance the interests of physicians, to promote better public health, to lobby for medical legislation, and to raise money for medical education. The AMA also publishes the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a prestigious medical journal. It also runs the SAVE program, which stands for Stop America's Violence Everywhere.
The AMA has traditionally opposed publicly funded medicine. Its vehement campaign against Medicare in the 1950s and 1960s included the Operation Coffee Cup supported by Ronald Reagan. With Medicare in place, however, the AMA has campaigned to raise Medicare payments to physicians. In the 1990s it was part of the coalition that defeated the health care reform proposed by President Bill Clinton. It has supported changes in medical malpractice law to limit damage awards.
Nobel laureate Milton Friedman (1979) argues the AMA controls the supply of physicians (in order to raise physicians' wages) through State government licensure of physicians and schools. Only physicians are generally regarded as qualified enough to judge potential physicians, so State licensing boards are primarily composed entirely of physicians, who are generally members of the AMA.
Critic Dale Steinreich, PhD, contends that the goal of the Council on Medical Education in 1904 was the shutting down more than half of all medical schools in the country (resulting in fewer doctors and thus higher fees). He also states that while there is nothing necessarily wrong with the seemingly high rejection rates found at most medical schools, that they are unreasonable given the relatively high quality pool of applicants.
Henry E. Jones, MD notes that American's annual cost per capita for health care ($4,662.00) is nearly double that of health care in other countries and quality is not necessarily higher: American life expectancy is 42nd in the world, infant mortality is 37th, and about 100,000 patients die in U.S. hospitals each year from accidental injuries, medication errors, and adverse drug reactions (equivalent to two major airline crashes per day).
Jones contends that the high cost is primarily due to the AMA. If an MD feels competition from the local chiropractors, a naturopath, or a fellow MD of a different specialty infringing on his turf, he may complain to the AMA. A surgeon might complain of a general practitioner doing surgery or an obstetrician may complain about a family physician delivering babies. Jones argues that these complaints are reconfigured into safety concerns, such as "we are concerned that some in the chiropractic profession may be overstepping their areas of expertise and jeopardizing patient safety." If the targeted healthcare providers do not have a license to practice medicine from the AMA-controlled medical boards, the state attorney generals prosecute them for "practicing medicine without a license." If the group is licensed by the medical board, then its members are accused of practicing "below the standard of care." License revocation means not only loss of the doctor's livelihood, but a devastating blow both socially and professionally. Few physicians will go anywhere near that possibility.
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