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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 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) and runs the Stop America's Violence Everywhere, or SAVE, program.

The AMA Physician Specialty Codes are a standard in the United States for identifying physician and practice specialties.


History


Charitable activities

The AMA Foundation provides approximately $1,000,000 annually in tuition assistance to financially constrained students (who now graduate medical school with an average debt load of well over $100,000 each). It funds awareness projects about health literacy. It supports research funding for students and fellows around the US. It provides grants to community projects designed to encourage healthy lifestyles (of diet and exercise, good sleep habits, etc.) The Worldscopes program has a goal of providing over 100,000 stethoscopes to third world countries, donated from physicians and students.


Political positions

For much of the twentieth century, the AMA opposed publicly-funded health care. When the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act was passed in the U.S., the AMA protested the law soon after, both on the grounds of actual disagreement with the law and the supporters' lies on the subject. Harry J. Anslinger (Bureau of Narcotics Commissioner) and others had claimed the AMA had vocalized support when, in fact, the opposite was true.

In the 1930s, it attempted to prohibit its members from working for the primitive health maintenance organizations that had sprung up during the Great Depression. The AMA's subsequent conviction for violating the Sherman Antitrust Act was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court. American Medical Ass'n. v. United States, 317 U.S. 519 (1943) .

The AMA's vehement campaign against Medicare in the 1950s and 1960s included the Operation Coffee Cup supported by Ronald Reagan. Since the enactment of Medicare, the AMA has stated that it "continues to oppose attempts to cut Medicare funding or shift increased costs to beneficiaries at the expense of the quality or accessibility of care" and "strongly supports subsidization of prescription drugs for Medicare patients based on means testing". The AMA also campaigns to raise Medicare payments to physicians, arguing that increases will protect seniors' access to health care. In the 1990s it was part of the coalition that defeated the health care reform proposed by President Bill Clinton.

The AMA has given high priority to supporting changes in medical malpractice law to limit damage awards, which, it contends, contribute inability of patients to find appropriate medical care. In many states, high risk specialists have moved to other states with such limits. For example, in 2004 not a single neurosurgeon remained in the entire southern half of Illinois. The main legislative emphasis in multiple states has been to effect caps on the amount that patients can receive for pain and suffering. These costs for pain and suffering are only those that exceed the actual costs of healthcare and lost income. Multiple states have found that limiting these costs have actually dramatically slowed increases in the costs of medical malpractice insurance. Texas, having recently enacted such reforms has reported that all major malpractice insurers in 2005 were able to offer either no increase or a decrease in premiums to physicians. At the same time however, states without caps also experienced similar results; this suggests the cyclical nature of insurance markets may have actually been responsible. Some economic studies have found that caps have historically had a dubious effect on premium rates [3]. Nevertheless, AMA believes the caps may alleviate what is often perceived as an excessively litigious environment for many doctors.

Another top priority of the AMA is to lobby for change to the federal tax codes to allow the current health insurance system (based on employment) to be purchased by individuals. Such changes could possibly allow millions of currently uninsured Americans to be able to afford insurance through a series of refundable tax credits based on income (ie: the lower your income, the greater your credit).


Criticisms

Critics of the American Medical Association, including economist Milton Friedman, have asserted that the organization acts as a government-sanctioned guild and has attempted to increase physicians' wages and fees limit by influencing limitations on the supply of physicians and non-physician competition [4] [5]. They assert that these actions have not only inflated the cost of healthcare in the United States, but have also have caused a decline in the quality of healthcare [6].


References


External links


Criticism of the AMA

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