If you're a medical doctor, you probably received an email like this in recent days from the American Medical Association, a tax-exempt not-for-profit corporation organized under section 501(c)(6) of the US tax code:

Subject: Dr. XYZ, don’t wait to get the PPE you need from the AMA

Dear Dr. XYZ,

Since the start of the pandemic, physicians across the country have gone above and beyond to keep patients safe. Yet after eight months, many are still unable to get enough PPE for their practices. We’ve urged the federal government to act, and now, we’re stepping in.

The American Medical Association is collaborating with Project N95, a not-for-profit organization, to reserve quality-certified PPE for AMA members to purchase with no minimum.

If you’re interested in ordering PPE, go here to learn more and view the available equipment, and then activate your AMA membership to get started. The deadline to place an order is 3 p.m. Central time on Monday, Nov. 23.

This PPE shortage has placed physicians in jeopardy for far too long. I hope this collaboration with Project N95 provides some immediate support as we continue to advocate for a long-term resolution.

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  1. Thanks for digging into this Ben. My physician wife paid many years of dues to AMA before we figured out it was just a front for selling insurance, etc. Who knew all this? Not the average AMA member/victim. BTW, she’s been retired for 12 years, but that doesn’t discourage them from continuing to solicit her “membership”.

  2. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    I thought I was immune to being shocked by corporate mendacity and greed. Then I started digging into the AMA …

  3. Great research Ben! Too bad, as usual, this will fall on dear ears. Our fine representatives at the federal and state level are too busy focusing on their own survival (and probably getting a few handouts from our friends at the AMA) to do more than perhaps shake an angry stick at the issue for a quick second. Gotta love it! The American Dream come true!**

    **if you’re lucky enough to catch on as a CEO at a non-profit or large publicly traded company.

  4. Ben, when I started working with healthcare IT companies 20 years ago, the real shocker was learning that the AMA owns the CPT billing codes and generates significant revenue from licensing them. The AMA is happy to complain about insurance companies claims practices but they’re just as much part of the problem. Best book I’ve read to understand the misalignment among the AMA, physician expectations and medical economics is The Social Transformation of American Medicine by Paul Starr. Docs helped build our beast of a system and the AMA is one of many manifestations of its problems.

  5. I would be very interested to see the fee structure (and frankly the annualized return) of that venture fund. I’d also be interested in their public security ownership and how they’ve managed to make under 2% in dividends (equivalent to a 2yr Treasury in 2018).

  6. …and the scales fell from his eyes…geez! Thank you for the enlightenment. This just pisses me off! I feel compelled to tell every doctor I know to beware of the AMA. I know I’m making a big leap when I say that this just another (albeit in the medical field) example of how so many organizations, companies, brands, government agencies (yes, I said it),etc. in this country in particular have been hollowed out to fit the “insiders” in to either drain it of life or fashion a cloak of invisibility over it while the rest of us live with our fond impressions of what it was, what it meant to us and to others and patronize them in ignorance. You just fed the skeptic in me and I’m still hungry. Thank you!

  7. Avatar for mckett mckett says:

    thinking just how many professional associations there are, it is comforting to know that this is such a rare outlier…as a charter holder of a certain 501(c)3 with 400M revenues I can rest easy, knowing I would find nothing of the kind if I examined their financials…

  8. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    Pop over to the note thread in the new forums, where we beat on, boats against the current, etc. to uncover any other possible such organizations…but like you, I’m sure we’ve exhausted them. :slight_smile:

  9. American Medical Association is treated as a Business League under 501(c) (6) and not all donations are tax-deductible. AMA Foundation is a 501(c)(3) and gets 1 star rating from Charity Navigator. Link to their 990 55% of spending is on Administrative and Fundraising expenses. 4.43 spent to raise $1 AARP? Nope; It’s a 501(c)(4) entity. Social Welfare Organization. Most recent 990 here. Nice reporting.

  10. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    Great point.

  11. Geez! You have good reason to be Angry Ben on this one. I have crossed swords with the AMA for over three decades and it is difficult to find virtue in much of what they do.

  12. I’d love to see something like “60 Minutes” interview you and your work on this

  13. Avatar for Greg_S Greg_S says:

    You can learn a lot about a “charitable” organization from those easy to obtain IRS form 990s.

  14. Thank you. The sentence that grabbed me was, “But I’ve never seen anything like this.” Do you keep that sentence in … do you remove it … AMA should shake anyone to the core. I’m sitting at the kitchen table right now angry and sad, capital “A” and “S”. I’m not a historian, but haven’t AMA’s existed since the beginning of time? Do we go through periods of less AMA’s and then more AMA’s? Maybe a topic for a future ET Live and the Forum. Thank you both for all your writings. I think you’ve done this in the past, but have you run all the ET writings through the Narrative Machine?

  15. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    We have a thread running on the Forum covering exactly this, Brian! Would love to get your input.

    On putting ET itself through the Narrative Machine, we usually do this once per year in January.

  16. Sticking to the theme, this is a great article for BITFD because it’s an incredible case study of the behavior the system permits, and by permitting, incentivizes. This one is bad but BITFD becomes the only answer as we begin to realize that if we peel back the layers on ANY legacy institution we will find a spectrum of this same behavior.

  17. The corruption never ends, because it’s non-linear. It’s a Mobius Strip of self-dealing and graft, all signed off on by legislators and the unknowing members.

  18. The self serving avarice of the AMA is reprehensible and these revelations provoke a negative visceral response. But in another sense the other side of the discussion is the cult of self-serving doctors who belong to, promote, and try to coerce membership in the organization. To be sure they represent the right wing (not conservative but parochial and populist wing) of physicians who like to gather in conclaves to support their petulant positions. When I entered the medical field this organization promoted specialists to the detriment of primary care physicians and the liaison with Congress and government agencies was alarming enough that I quickly chose to leave (as I did other stodgy medical associations though not as egregious). My experience with young doctors today encourages me that their social allegiance does not support membership in the AMA which on my last google search reveals only 15% of US doctors belong to the AMA. At the least the term “medical” should be deleted from its name.

  19. There is a notable connection between Milton Friedman and the AMA that may complement Ben’s point.
    Friedman wrote his PhD dissertation in Columbia in the mid-1930s. However, his dissertation was so controversial that Columbia refused to grant him a PhD. He left academia and joined the federal government as a statistician. During WWII, one of his contributions was the invention of a statistical technique known as sequential sampling. It revolutionized how factories measured the quality of the output from their production lines, and significantly increased the rate at which factories were able to produce armaments. I think it’s fair to say this innovation had a real impact on the outcome of the war.
    After the war, Friedman was a hero within the statistics and economic professions, and Columbia decided it could no longer deny him a PhD. He received his degree, and went on with his academic career.

    Regarding Columbia’s initial decision, what could be so controversial as to cause it to deny him a PhD in the first place? Friedman’s dissertation argued the AMA was a rent-seeking institution that did not serve he public interest, and he suggested social welfare would materially increase if it was abolished.
    A key difference between Friedman’s and Ben’s observations is that the AMA was once a rent-seeker on behalf of doctors, generally. Now it’s a rent-seeker on behalf of its management. Regardless, this time around, let’s hope no one has to invent statistical techniques that help win wars in order for this argument to be taken seriously.

  20. Thanks for another great article, Ben! At first I thought the title meant “Ask Me Anything…”. I am not in the medical field so I never really paid any attention to this AMA. After reading this, I went to Wikipedia:
    I wonder if updating Wikipedia with well researched information will at least give a little push in the right direction?

  21. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    I knew that Friedman was an outspoken critic of the AMA, but didn’t know the dissertation connection. That’s a GREAT story! Thank you, Mike.

  22. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    I thought about a title of “BITFD the AMA. AMA.” but figured it was too cute! I have an aversion to using Wikipedia for highly pointed criticism (which mine surely is), but I dunno. The AMA is truly an abomination.

  23. The only thing the state and federal representatives are going to say “wow what a great construct, how can we do that and get away with it”?

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