Medicine: The A.M.A. & the U.S.A.

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Hard Sell. The King-Anderson bill may not even come up in Congress this year. If it does, it is likely to be in a watered-down version, largely because the A.M.A. has decided to wage an all-out fight, and its Washington lobby has been in fine fettle. In addition, leaflets have been printed, 7,500,000 at a time, and sent in batches of 50 to 150,000 doctors, to be put in waiting rooms. Though the King-Anderson bill forbids Government abridgment of the patient's free choice of his doctor, the pamphlets, going on the first-step-to-socialism hypothesis, cry: "Your freedom is at stake!" A.M.A. commercials on more than a dozen radio stations have quoted a housewife ("When I think how good it is to choose your own doctor, I can't bear the thought of socialized medicine"), a druggist and a doctor denouncing the bill and urging listeners to "write your Congressman—tell him to vote against it." Public reaction was so unfavorable that some stations, including the New York Times's WQXR, canceled the five-week contract after a few days.

As it raced toward adjournment, the House of Delegates approved a Washington state resolution urging all local, state and national officers, and as many as possible of the 23,000 rank-and-file packed into Manhattan, to go home by way of Washington. D.C.. to demonstrate to their Congressmen "that there is no necessity for the King-Anderson bill, and to vote against it."

This campaign has A.M.A.'s opponents fuming. Says Ribicoff: "The A.M.A. is riding for a fall. Any organized pressure group that tries to frustrate a basic need of the people will find that no matter how powerful it is, it comes out on the losing end." Less to be expected, a sizable fraction of doctors have found A.M.A.'s hard sell a bit overdone.

One is Palo Alto's Dr. Philip R. Lee, 37, who has formed a Bay Area committee, including doctors, to buck the A.M.A. (he belongs) and fight for the King-Anderson bill. Lee says: "I don't favor socialized medicine, but we should experiment in providing better methods of care. If social security helped pay the cost of hospitalization, I wouldn't hesitate to put my older patients in the hospital if they needed it. They would come to me earlier if they were not afraid of catastrophic hospital bills." And under the noses of A.M.A. bigwigs, Chicago's Dr. Roland Cross was organizing the Independent Physicians of Illinois to bring together "physicians who are concerned for the public welfare."

Other doctors, less crusading, simply worried about medicine's good name. Atlanta's Dr. A. Hamblin Letton, public relations chairman for the Fulton County Medical Society, grumbled that the A.M.A. "is always against something." Dr. Ian Macdonald, secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Medical Association, stresses that "the most urgent medical problem in the country is the care of the elderly."

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