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Dissent in doctors group on Medicare reform
BOSTON (Reuters) - Most of the American Medical Association's own members disagreed with its campaign against the expansion of Medicare during the 2009 healthcare debate, according to a survey published on Wednesday.
"This data suggests the AMA may not be representing physicians' views on many issues," Dr. Salomeh Keyhani of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York said in a telephone interview.
"In the most controversial debate in our time, the AMA's position was out of line with the majority of physicians."
The survey of about 2,200 doctors found that only 14 percent of AMA members agreed with the 163-year-old organization's stand that uninsured people should primarily be covered by private companies.
"We considered a physician as endorsing the AMA's platform if he or she agreed with private expansions only and opposed the expansion of Medicare," Keyhani and colleague Dr. Alex Federman wrote in results published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
"Only 12.5 percent of all physicians responding, and 14.2 percent of AMA members, supported the AMA's viewpoint on coverage expansions."
The AMA, which represents about 23 percent of the nearly 1.1 million physicians and medical students in the United States, said its positions are developed from a democratic process.
"AMA has long-supported a uniquely American health care system that includes both private insurance for the majority and a robust public safety net for vulnerable patients," AMA President Dr. James Rohack said in a statement.
The doctors who supported the AMA position tended to be younger, male, practicing in rural areas, from the West and Midwest, and in specialties with less patient interaction, such as radiology, pathology and anesthesiology.
But even in those categories, the rate of support for the AMA position was no higher than 16 percent.
Only 8 percent of female doctors supported the AMA position during the healthcare reform debate.
Keyhani said that was very important because "women are such a rising demographic in health care. Some medical schools have greater than 50 percent females in their entering class."
(Editing by Maggie Fox and Cynthia Osterman)
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