AMA: Union Hailed as Success by Michigan Doctors
Following the AMA's decision last June to form a national labor organization, a group of Michigan physicians will become the first to negotiate a contract with an HMO, the doctors told colleagues at the AMA's annual meeting in Chicago. According to the Chicago Tribune, almost 40 doctors employed by Wellness Plan, a Detroit-based HMO, are hashing out a deal with the help of Chicago-based Physicians for Responsible Negotiation, the union created by AMA leaders last year to give physicians "more muscle" when dealing with managed care systems. The Wellness Plan doctors want a three-year deal, including seats on the health plan's operations committee and involvement in patient assignments. "They are looking for a mechanism so they can tell the managed care plan what they need," PRN President Dr. Susan Hershberg Adelman said. Wellness doctors, crediting the clout the AMA lends PRN, expect to reach an agreement this fall without a labor stoppage. "PRN and AMA and no strikes seem to sit well with doctors," Dr. Prashant Dixit, one of the Wellness physicians, noted. Since Wellness employs the doctors, they can legally negotiate with their HMO; however, a majority of the nation's 700,000 self-employed physicians cannot collectively bargain because of federal antitrust laws (Japsen, 6/13).
Doctors also expect the AMA to support a move to eliminate a controversial Spanish-language medical licensing exam that may offer hundreds of foreign-trained physicians the opportunity to practice in Florida, the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reports. At its Chicago meeting, the AMA's House of Delegates received a request to support a resolution urging state officials to abandon the special test, which would affect about 370 doctors, primarily Cuban-Americans or Nicaraguans. "This is almost certain to be passed," Dr. Juan Wester, a Hollywood general surgeon who heads the Florida Medical Association's panel on international medical graduates, predicted. The foreign doctors contend that their governments refuse to verify their training and experience for "political reasons," adding that others who are qualified fail to pass the standard exam because of "difficulty with English." The FMA and several other doctors' groups oppose any special consideration, however, arguing that Florida has set "a bad precedent" by offering a translated and simplified medical licensing exam. "When you start making exceptions, that's when you lose credibility," Wester said, adding, "Everybody should take the same exam to practice in the state" (Schulte, 6/13).