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Indiana doctors’ association: A shrug and a blank stare on healthcare reform

ISMA spokesperson doubts bill will pass before August recess

Close-up Of A Doctor Examining YouWhen the American Medical Association endorsed Obamacare yesterday, we thought it might be important to know how the AMA’s constituent organization here in Indiana felt about it.  After all, we figured, Indiana doctors would certainly have an opinion regarding such a massive reordering of their profession, not to mention the US economy. But what Elkhart Review got from the Indiana State Medical Association was the equivalent of a shrug and a blank stare.

Julie Reed, general counsel for the Indiana State Medical Association told Elkhart Review that the group had not formulated any specific position, given the fact that the House bill had only just been revealed and is still being marked up.  Reed would not comment on the AMA’s endorsement or speculate on the reasons for it, nor was she able to provide any feeling for the ISMA membership’s reactions to the bill, the endorsement or even the issue in general.  No surveys have been done and apparently, no informal feedback, such as phonecalls, has been received, according to Reed.

Reed did speculate that ISMA might address the bill at its annual meeting in September, which would be well after President Obama’s tight deadline to pass healthcare reform.

Adele Lash, ISMA Media Relations, echoed much of what Reed told us — that the association had not really taken a position on the bill, or even on the concept of government-run healthcare.   Of course, if the bill passes before the August recess, ISMA’s opinion won’t matter anyway, but Lash said she didn’t believe the bill would pass that quickly.

We’re glad Lash is so confident, because we’re not.  It seems to us, with the President and the Democrats pulling out all the stops to push this monstrosity through, and with the Republicans pushing hard in the other direction, the medical community would be on one side or the other, but not sitting on the sidelines.  And with the AMA’s endorsement hot off the presses, it would seem that constituent organizations such as ISMA would at least have a boilerplate opinion that goes beyond “Gee, we haven’t really thought about it that much.” But the impression we got was that ISMA didn’t usually address such things aggressively, nor was it accustomed to being questioned about its positions.

Beyond ISMA’s blasé response, it stretches credulity that the association would have received no comment at all from its members. We’re familiar with the nature of professional associations, and they are often the first flashpoint of any controversy that has an impact on the profession.   Healthcare  reform affects too many people not to be at least a point of discussion.

Lash was very careful in saying that the group had not considered the specific words “government run healthcare” when we asked for a position on that possibility.  The politics of the issue can be very contentious, we’re sure, and this probably explains some of her guardedness.

But ultimately, professional associations exist to serve their memberships.  The issue of healthcare reform has been roiling for well over a year, even if the Obamacare bill is just being finalized.  ISMA members, and ISMA members’ patients, should question the slowness (or lack) of response from an association that exists to serve their best interests.

And for those of us who are not doctors, we have an interest in knowing whether our trusted physicians are prepared to defend a market-driven medical system that works (if imperfectly) or plan to throw their profession, our economy, and our well-being under the bus.

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