AMA Under GOP ‘Assault’ for Increased Democrat Support
With the American Medical Association having over the past several years shifted its support from the Republican to the Democratic party, the GOP has "launched an assault" on the doctors' organization, the Wall Street Journal reports. The AMA until recently had "sterling GOP credentials," but in the past several years, as doctors have become "increasingly upset with the rising power" of managed care organizations, the AMA's party "allegiance" has shifted "dramatically." The organization supports the Democrat-backed McCain-Kennedy-Edwards patients' bill of rights, and has increased its contributions to Democratic candidates. AMA campaign contributions to Democrats increased from less than 20% in the 1996 elections to 67% in the first part of this year, marking the first time the organization gave more to Democrats than to Republicans, according to the Federal Election Commission. Thirty-eight percent of individual doctors' campaign contributions in 1999-2000 went to Democrats, an increase from earlier election cycles. However, AMA chair Timothy Flaherty "insists" that the group is nonpartisan, saying, "We are issue-oriented."
Still, in response to the AMA's contributions to Democrats and its support of the patients' rights bill opposed by the GOP, Republicans have "ordered up harsh treatment" for the group. For example, the Journal reports that President Bush "appeared to snub" the group by delivering a "major" health policy address before the American College of Cardiology rather than before the AMA, and the administration did not send an AMA representative as part of the U.S. delegation to the World Health Assembly meeting in Geneva in May. The House Republicans "most influential" on health policy -- Reps. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) and Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) -- said last month in a letter to colleagues that the AMA was "deliberately misleading lawmakers" on patients' rights legislation and "no longer speaks for a majority of physicians." Also, as reported in yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) is "so angry" with the AMA that he has asked HHS to review the "lucrative ... contract" the group has with the government to provide the codes used by Medicare and Medicaid to price medical procedures. The Journal reports that the "timing" of the issue could be a problem for the AMA, as Lott serves on the Finance Committee, which is scheduled to address Medicare reform. Steve Schmidt, communications director for the National Republican Campaign Committee, said, "Many Republicans feel that the AMA has become less concerned with patients and doctors and more concerned with the political interests of the Democratic Party" (Hamburger, Wall Street Journal, 8/8).