AMA: Outsider Candidate Loses Vote To Lead Group
Members of the American Medical Association chose to stick with the status quo yesterday, electing board chair Dr. Thomas Reardon as their new president-elect at the AMA annual meeting in Chicago. Supporting Reardon by a vote of 270-196 over insurgent candidate Dr. Raymond Scalettar, the group "gave a vote of confidence" to the board chair, who led the group through the controversial Sunbeam endorsement dispute last year. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Scalettar ran as a reform candidate, lobbying strongly against the AMA board's handling of the Sunbeam deal. After his loss, Scalettar said the AMA is a stronger organization thanks to his bid for the presidency: "The leadership has received a clear message to improve the operations of the AMA. I feel that my crusade has helped refocus the AMA." Reardon said the medical lobby "emotionally needs to move on beyond" the Sunbeam fiasco (Wolinsky/Manor, 6/18). "We need to make a strong commitment to ethics," Reardon said. After the election, some AMA members "immediately closed ranks behind Reardon," expressing their support and eagerness to work with the new president. Reardon, a family practice physician from Portland, OR, will serve a term as president-elect before taking over the presidency in June 1999 (Japsen, Chicago Tribune, 6/18).
Sick Of Sunbeam
The Washington Post reports that "many doctors at this week's meetings said they think the organization needs to move beyond the recent controversy" involving Sunbeam. New Jersey orthopedic surgeon Robert Weierman said doctors "back home aren't interested in Sunbeam," adding that health insurance reimbursement and slow payments are issues of greater concern to physicians (Goldstein, 6/18). The Sun-Times reports that "AMA delegates appear to believe that Sunbeam is in the past." Today, members are scheduled to vote on whether to adopt "a report stating the Sunbeam matter has been thoroughly investigated and safeguards are in place to prevent such a debacle from recurring" (6/18).
AMA delegates did not adopt a proposal by the group's ethics committee to "strongly discourage" doctors from selling nonprescription health products out of their offices for profit. The ethics panel said the practice "creates a public image that physicians are merely entrepreneurs trying to increase their income." But AMA members said patients want access to skin care products that fight skin cancer and the effects of aging. And with the rise in alternative therapies, members said vitamins, minerals and herbs are in demand. "Doctors devote space and spend their time and their nurses' time. They're entitled to some profit," said Dr. Paul Schnur, president-elect of the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons (Ritter, Chicago Sun-Times, 6/18).
Fighting Back Against HMOs
The AMA also expressed its "frustration with managed health care" by endorsing a collective bargaining policy that would allow physicians to use work slowdowns "to secure concessions from insurance companies." Fort Worth allergist Dr. Susan Wynn said, "It's definitely a sign of how far the medical community feels it's being pushed that they would even consider something that many of us hold as being against the Hippocratic oath" (Ornstein, Dallas Morning News, 6/18). Also approved was "an all-out effort to allow consumers to choose their health insurance from among competing plans" (see AHL 6/17). Dr. Nancy Dickey, installed this week as AMA president, said, "Physicians have been unhappy with the current system for a decade. Patients have been unhappy for five or six years. Now even CEOs are unhappy because costs are rising again. If everybody's unhappy with the existing system, what better time to change it?" (Dedman, New York Times, 6/18).