Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Why won't the AMA stop asking me to pay dues?



Today I received another one of these in the mail.


It's a dues notice from the American Medical Association. For a mere $420.00 per year, I can become a member. 

Over 10 years ago, I dropped out of the AMA because it seemed to be run by a bunch of old guys who were out of touch with the real issues of practicing medicine in the 21st century. Other than the included subscription to a journal which was then called Archives of Surgery, I felt that I received no value from belonging.

Approximately every 3 months since then I have received notices like the one above from the organization.

By now, you would think they might have a clue that I am not interested in rejoining, but the notices keep on coming. I realize the process is probably automated and the algorithm doesn't sense the fact that I'm never going to respond. But here's a thought.

There's a scheme that some magazines run. They send you a "free" copy and if you don't read the fine print, you get one every month. Then you get a bill.

A variation is this. Figuring that your address is a business which is quite likely when someone is an MD, magazines send frequent subscription "renewal" notices when you've decided to discontinue it or even when no prior subscription exists. What they are hoping for is that an office manager or secretary will see the notice and pay the bill as a matter of routine. 

To illustrate this note that I also discontinued my subscription to the New England Journal of Medicine a few years ago, but every two months I get a renewal notice as if I had been a subscriber all along.

I'm not saying I can prove that the AMA is doing this with the same intent, but why would they keep it up for so long?

Also, I wonder how much money they waste mailing these notices.

According to recent figures, only about 17% (217,000) of all US doctors and medical students are AMA members, 25% of them are over 65 years old and enrollment is flat. 

I'm not sure why anyone belongs. Any ideas?

27 comments:

Dr.Jon said...

Agreed. I stopped even before I graduated from medical school I think your assessment is 100% correct. To say out of touch would be an understatement.

Anonymous said...

Yes I get them as well. I believe that its a computer generated process. I actually called them to ask to be taken off the list as the waste of paper is exorbitant, and I hate that waste of trees. I also asked them how are they paying for all of this mailing and who is subsidizing them?
No answer form the AMA.
No dues from me either

Skeptical Scalpel said...

I see I am not alone. Thanks for commenting.

Anonymous said...

As a new person on a committee for my sub specialty society I now participate in the CPT meetings run by the AMA. I had to rejoin to be able to go!

Anonymous said...

Yes, same thing here. The more irritating thing is that they also keep sending AMA-affiliated disability insurance offers in huge grey envelopes. What a waste of paper/trees and time!

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Yes, I had forgotten about the other mailings.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

That's a famous AMA trick. Have 30 people on a committee and they all have to be members. I hope you are getting reimbursed for the dues. That's the only way I ever would have joined.

NeuroTrumpet said...

I received and tossed my "reminder" out yesterday. I signed up in my first year of medical school ("American Medical Association? Of COURSE I want to be a member!") because it came with free Netter's Anatomy flashcards. Tricky bastards!

I have never renewed my membership, but every time I receive an envelope from them my heart races transiently after seeing "URGENT!" and "TIME SENSITIVE!" and whatever else is plastered all over. Regardless of how I feel about the AMA (I do enjoy reading JAMA, but I access it electronically), these kinds of scare tactics inevitably erode my regard for them because I don't like being pestered, generally. I don't even like being bothered unprompted by a store employee asking "Hi, can I offer you some assistance?" If I wanted some assistance, I'd ask--or try to look really perplexed or something.

My point is, one would think they'd do better with less invasive and irritating advertising strategies. Apparently, I'm wrong or else they would have ceased to waste all this paper by now.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Neuro, I had heard that they entice naive students with gifts. It's OK for them to do it but not a drug company.

Anonymous said...

I believe most medical students, myself included, join for the sake of padding our residency applications under "Membership in professional societies". Aside from AOA, I personally don't see anything in this section having any bearing on the way programs view our application. Yet we all do it. As a former program director, can you shed any light on this subject? Was membership in any of these organizations (ACS, AMA, the NRA) ever a make or break point in an applicants status? I'm highly doubtful.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

I can only speak for myself. Membership in the AMA would have had absolutely no impact on the strength of your application. At least the joining the ACS "might" imply that you really are interested in surgery. NRA? If you mean National Rifle Association, I guess I would not have held it against you. In some parts of the country, it would be seen as a positive, in others maybe not.

AOA of course, would be a big asset.

Anonymous said...

It took the AMA's early and vociferous support of PPACA for me to realize that it was time to pull out of that organization. Better late than never.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

I have heard that many doctors felt that way and have done what you did.

Jim Salwitz said...

At this point what organization(s) do you rely on to have an impact on legislation and on healthcare planning in you community, state or national level?

jcs

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Jim, good question. Rely on? I'm not sure you can rely on any of them. I can't think of many instances where a medical society or organization has had much of an impact on legislation or healthcare planning. Can you?

artiger said...

Scalpel, just add me to the list of people who dropped out of the AMA several years ago, only to be hounded like the rest of you.

There is a vacuum in leadership for physician organizations, and the AMA didn't even have to vanish for that to occur. In about 10 more years, their membership should probably be half what it is now, maybe even less than that. Physicians just aren't into organizations like they used to be. We don't socialize with each other that much, so meetings are kind of a pointless expense (with CME and educational stuff being so available via the internet). We hate politicians because we are kind of in the middle; lawyers have one side and insurance/pharma has the other. If this country ever developed a significant third party, one that is moderate, I would predict that a physician organization could be successful. Unfortunately, I don't expect pigs to fly in my lifetime, as there's too much money in it for the fringes.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

I agree that there is a problem with physician organizations--their direction and their leaders. It may be that doctors just can't figure out how the game is played.

artiger said...

I expect that to change in the next generation. Med students and residents seem to be getting more exposure to economic and political issues now more so than when you, and even I, trained (I finished in 1997). Those issues were previously ignored from what I observed (arguably, we didn't have time for them, but now they do).

Anonymous said...

Med students now get a choice of Netter's Anatomy Flash Cards or the Goljan's Rapid Path review... That and the class rep touting "high enrollment" (>70%). Unfortunately I don't think many will educate themselves on the platform of the AMA in the face of such "free" resources.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Thanks for pointing that out. I understand the dues are steeply discounted too. Let's see how many remain members when the dues goes to $420.00/year.

Anonymous said...

$17/year for student membership.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Thank you. I'd say that's quite a discount.

Vaughn said...

This is cool!

Jay said...

I get regular "renewal" notices, although I have never been a member. I agree: this is a scam to get office managers to field without MD input. Sneaky.
I actually began to feel a shred of respect for the AMA when I saw some good writing about Meaningful Use on American Medical News twitter feed (@amednews). Sadly, they just shut that down.

Great stuff. Keep writing.

Jay

@EJSMD

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Jay, thank you.

I enjoyed @amednews too. I agree it is too bad they dumped it. Maybe if the hadn't wasted so much money on postage for renewal notices, it would still exist.

Chris Porter MD said...

I think we're suffering through a gap between the relevant medical organizations of the past and the forms which will emerge after vast changes in how we organize and communicate.

Admittedly I know little about how organizations advocate for our patients and our profession at the legislative level. But, I suspect they possess a fraction of the power of a typical private-industry lobby.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Chris, I agree. The AMA ain't what it used to be.

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