Today, the American Medical Association sent a letter to the leaders of the U.S. Senate announcing its opposition to the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 (BCRA). The AMA’s ostensible reason for doing so was stated thus: “Medicine has long operated under the precept of Primum non nocere, or ‘first, do no harm.’ The draft legislation violates that standard on many levels.” The AMA’s opposition to the GOP “repeal and replace” bill was all over the “news” media within an hour after its release, and most outlets implied that it represents the views of the medical profession in general. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
In fact, the AMA represents only about 25 percent of the nation’s 850,000 active physicians. And, more importantly for its leadership, membership dues account for only about 13 percent of its annual revenue. The vast majority of the AMA’s revenue comes from its government-granted monopoly on a medical coding system, the Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) code set that physicians and hospitals must use in order to be paid for their services. And the amount the AMA makes from this monopoly is not “chump change.” During Fiscal Year 2015 the AMA raked in a cool $253 million from its multifarious coding publications.
In other words, the American Medical Association isn’t really in the business of representing physicians. It’s a publishing company masquerading as a professional organization. And its primary motive for opposing GOP efforts to disturb the status quo that it helped to create in 2010 with its endorsement of Obamacare is about protecting profits rather than patients. It’s about maintaining a lucrative deal with Beltway bandits. The profiteers of the AMA have one reason for hoping “the Senate will take this opportunity to change the course of the current debate and work to fix problems with the current system.” It’s all about the Benjamins.