Monday, October 29, 2007

Sermo, The Physicians Foundatiom the AMA -Practicing Doctors: The Missing Voice in Health Reform

Ask your patients or your local newspaper or TV station where doctors stand on health reform.

I’ll wager they don’t know.

Why not?

The AMA’s voice is curiously muted, perhaps because it is thought to represent a union for doctors, or simply a lobbying organization in Washington. This may be unfair. Besides, its message of expanding coverage through market mechanisms, leveling of tax deductions, extension of tax credits, reforming physician’s payments and the medical liability system, important as they are, are abstract issues to the public and the media world at large...

A more personal and pointed approach is needed. The Connecticut State Medical Society in the 1980s had the right idea when it launched its MD Health Plan with the theme “Nothing should stand between you and your doctor.” Later, in 1999, the Medical Society brought Aetna to the bargaining table with full-page ads in newspapers and on billboards with this slogan, ”Aetna is Playing Doctor with Our Patients.”

Then in 2004, 19 state medical societies, led by Connecticut and Texas and others, reached a settlement in federal court with Aetna and Cigna. This culminated with Aetna and Cigna contributing over $150 million, leading to the formation of the Physicians’ Foundation for Health System Excellence and the Physicians Advocacy Institute. These organizations issue grants to physician organizations and promote efficiency and quality improvement and negotiate with HMOs over contentious physician issues.

What’s now needed is a national megaphone, a data gathering and news outlet, such as, for these or similar organizations to make clear why and where practicing doctors stand on vital issues of physician practice viability and health reform. In some cases, such a primary care, the issue might be why some primary care physicians are an endangered economic species, or on the reform front, why third parties are in essence practicing medicine, standing between doctors and their patients.

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