AMA debates collective bargaining
Web posted on: Wednesday, June 23, 1999 1:17:19 PM EDT
(CNN) -- The American Medical Association House of Delegates deliberated Wednesday over whether to form a collective bargaining unit within the AMA. The 494-member group broke for lunch before deciding whether to create the new unit, which it carefully avoided calling a "union," at the organization's annual meeting in Chicago.
An AMA committee recommended Tuesday that the organization form the labor arm for doctors.
The committee said it "believes that the conditions in the current environment are severe and physicians have expressed a strong preference for having as many advocacy tools as possible available to them, including collective bargaining."
Throughout the week, the panel of seven physicians heard arguments for and against collective bargaining.
While private practice doctors may join unions, current anti-trust laws
prevent those same doctors from collectively bargaining with insurance
Congress is considering a bill that would make those doctors exempt from
The committee also urged the AMA to support that legislation vigorously, saying that if it passed, the AMA should be in a position to provide labor organization backing to all self-employed doctors.
According to the AMA, about 6 percent of 600,000 practicing physicians in
the United States have joined a union.
Doctors who want unions said they worry that many insurance carriers are more concerned with cost cuts and the bottom line than they are with patient care. Opponents said any job action a doctors union might use as leverage, such as a strike, goes against the Hippocratic Oath.
"We would never invoke a strike," said AMA President Dr. Randolph Smoak. "Collective bargaining is just one tool in our continuum of trying to modify the problems.
Correspondent Jennifer Auther and Reuters contributed to this report.
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American Medical Association - HOD Annual 1999 Meeting Web site
Union of American Physicians and dentists
Office and Professional Employees International Labor Union
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