AMA Prez Says “Welcome Linchpins!” by Pat Conrad MD

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Finally, some leadership at the AMA!  Too often, I’ve been forced to criticize the AMA for its subservience to big government, and its heavy-handed, tone-deaf way of dealing with average physicians.  Too much regulation?  We’ll sell more ICD/CPT codebooks.  Not getting paid enough?  We’ll write another strongly worded letter to Congress, asking if we could please have a committee consider whether or not to review the options on somehow possibly reforming our approach to revising the SGR, that is if it’s okay with you.

I’m pleased to see that in her first major op-ed as the president of the AMA, Ardis Dee Hoven, MD, has grabbed back the reins of power for her profession ad constituency.  Her column in the American Medical News is titled: “IMG’s:  Linchpin to the future of U..S. Health Care.”  She goes big guns out of the gate, stating that 25% of practicing U.S. docs, and 27% of residents are international medical graduates, who overwhelmingly provide care in underserved rural areas, with high percentages of elderly and minorities.  Wow.

Pres. Hoven bemoans that in four years, the U.S. is projected to be short 60,000 physicians, and that to fight this, the AMA is shooting for an additional 15,000 primary care and surgical residents, if Congress will okay them.  She pokes a sharp stick in the protectionist balloon of higher individual state requirements for IMG’s, and states outright that there should be more international representation in leadership positions on state and specialty boards, in order to start reforming those absurd licensing policies.  The IMG section is also “lobbying to alleviate visa complications and delays.”

Hoven calls for the permanent J-1 visa waiver program; increasing the J-1 cap from 30 to 50 per state; and exempt docs-in-training from specialty foreigner caps.  She touts recent Judiciary Committee testimony, and upcoming immigration legislation to further ease the way for foreign, sorry, international docs to bolster our sagging health force.

The strategy is brilliant, and the time for initiative is now.  For decades the AMA unwisely engaged in protectionism on behalf of U.S. doctors, and what did that get them?  A workforce of spoiled, entitled docs too busy complaining about declining revenues and bitching about mandated EHR’s to drive out into the country and care for the underserved.  This will be a walk in the park for providers who’ve already mastered a second language and third world driving reflexes.

How dare U.S. docs disdain taking more Medicaid patients, when the AMA has been actively trying to increase those rolls?  Knowing that it won’t make U.S. physicians more financially stable, the AMA will instead, brilliantly, alter their perspective by infusing them with IMG’s.

Upset at filling out an ICD-10 superbill?  It beats riding to work with a crate of chickens on the roof.

Are you mad that the latest 2% Medicare cut will make little Johnny’s private school unaffordable? Your new surgeon earned $50 a month in Nigeria and thinks you’ve got a great deal. Want to cry about not being able to take the family on a cruise this year?  That pediatrician rode a refugee boat from Vietnam to get here, without the VIP cabin.

Despite a $60 million PR blitz in 2005, ungrateful physicians largely stayed away from AMA membership.  What better way to lead them back to the fold than with an international flare in these shortage times?

For decades, the AMA has been an active participant in the policies, laws, and pressures that have made medicine a progressively unattractive pursuit.  Now that we have a looming shortage of doctors to service those policies, Dr. Hoven will improve the lie by welcoming more of those tired of being pursued.  “Linchpin” indeed:  as the U.S. continues to decline toward the Third World, Dr. Hoven’s AMA will help lead the way.

40300cookie-checkAMA Prez Says “Welcome Linchpins!” by Pat Conrad MD