The American Medical Association lost about 12,000 members or 5% of its total membership in 2010
MedPage Today, Emily P. Walker, June 20, 2011
CHICAGO -- The American Medical Association saw another steep drop in its membership in 2010 -- this time losing about 12,000 members or 5% of its total membership, the group announced Sunday during its 2011 House of Delegates meeting.
In 2010, the AMA's had a total membership of 215,854, down from 228,150 in 2009. Numbers for 2011 are not yet available.
While the AMA remains the nation's largest physician's group, membership has dropped sharply since the group endorsed President Obama's healthcare reform plan, which became law last year. Many in the organization quit in protest, and many more continue to quit.
"Individual membership in the AMA continues to plummet as physicians see less value in their AMA membership, and increasingly perceive the AMA to be a less responsive organizational bureaucracy..." the District of Columbia delegation wrote in a resolution it introduced to reorganize the group's House of Delegates.
Membership declines were most acute in Southern states -- the same region in which state medical societies have been championing opposition to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Daniel Edney, MD, a nephrologist and delegate for Mississippi, placed his state's membership at just 600 doctors. Mississippi had 2,327 members in 2010, according to the AMA.
"It's PPACA and we all know it," Edney said, referring to the original full name of the law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which has since been shorted to just the Affordable Care Act. "PPACA is what is driving all of our doctors crazy."
But not all doctors oppose ACA, as evidence by the number of members -- most of them younger physicians -- who testified in support of the ACA's individual mandate during a Sunday session on the ACA provisions.
The number of members in Alabama has dropped so much that the House of Delegates was set to strip away one seat from the state this year, said W. Jeff Terry, MD, a urologist and delegate for Alabama. But the House agreed to hold Alabama's seats at five and give the delegation a year to try and get its membership back up, Terry said.
Which will be a difficult task, he admits.
Many doctors in his state were so angry with the AMA for supporting healthcare reform that they resigned their memberships.
"That was the one issue that caused the drop in membership," Terry told MedPage Today.
Terry has been trying to convince doctors in his state that like it or not, the AMA is the voice of doctors, at least in the minds of the public, and they're better off having their voices heard. Plus, the organization should have a diversity of opinions, he said. If the deflected docs don't rejoin, and more keep quitting, the AMA "will just be a bunch of people who think exactly the same," Terry said.
But for those who quit in protest of the AMA's support of the healthcare reform law, it's an emotional thing, he said, likening the split to a divorce.
"It takes a while to get over it," he said, adding he hopes Alabama members will eventually rejoin, but admits it will likely take a while.
The AMA reported that membership dues revenue decreased by $4.2 million in 2010 -- down nearly 10% from 2009. Annual dues for active physician members are $420, but students -- who comprise 21% of the AMA's membership, pay just $20 a year.
Despite the drop in revenue from dues, AMA brought in an additional $5.2 million in total revenue in 2010, largely due to "stronger publishing and business revenues."
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