AMA Follow-Up

Lawrence R. Huntoon, MD, PhD
Article Type: 
May/June 1998
Volume Number: 
Issue Number: 

Dear Dr. Orient,

As you know, AMA Chairman of the Board of Trustee, Dr. Thomas Reardon, has come out swinging lately (probably in an attempt to distract from the fact that a resolution has been submitted by the AMA House of Delegates calling for his resignation over the Sunbeam fiasco) against “unfounded hassling of physicians by any branch of government, any time, any place” (“Let’s have zero tolerance for government hassling,” AMNews Nov. 24, 1997). I keep trying to reconcile this with other things like the new HCFA-AMA liaison to bring us the atrocious and intrusive new Documentation Guidelines for Evaluation and Management Services.

In 1988, the AMA published a “Reference Guide to Policy & Official Statements.” I called the AMA today to see if there is a new or revised version, and they indicated that there was not. The edition I have, therefore, is apparently the latest edition.

Turning to the section on Uncompensated Care, something which all of us seem to be providing more and more of these days, we find the following: To expect a physician in the context of his medical practice to administer governmental priorities in the allocation of scarce health resources is to create a conflict with the physician’s primary responsibility to his patients that would be socially undesirable.

It sounds to me as though the AMA is saying that physicians shouldn’t be administering the government’s Medicare program via all of its highly restrictive, burdensome, clinically harmful, and often downright ludicrous rules and regulations which serve no useful purpose other than to interfere in the practice of medicine and to increase the costs of providing medical care to the government’s “beneficiaries” (oxymoron). Yet, it is the AMA in collaboration with HCFA that is bringing us the most complex, detailed and intrusive requirements for documentation of medical services that have ever existed.

These new E & M documentation requirements have absolutely nothing to do with assuring quality medical care. They represent nothing more than another highly effective weapon that government bureaucrats can use against physicians to recoup more money from physicians to bolster the financially doomed Medicare Program.

This is akin to a soldier loading a weapon and handing it to his sworn enemy, handle and trigger first.

We presume the AMA leadership, however, secure in their salaried positions, will conveniently step aside while the enemy uses the AMA’s own members for target practice. As individual physicians in the field fall one by one, I can hear the AMA leadership singing the second verse of “You are my only l Sunbeam, make me happy when skies are gray,’ll never know docs, how much we love you...We’re so sorry HCFA blew you away!

Lawrence R. Huntoon, MD, PhD
Jamestown, NY

Originally published in the Medical Sentinel 1998;3(3):69. Copyright © 1998 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS).





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