No reason to defer to ‘expertise’ of AMA, OSMA

Health Care

Jonathan Small | September 27, 2021

No reason to defer to ‘expertise’ of AMA, OSMA

Jonathan Small

Whether it’s Critical Race Theory, removing sex designation from birth certificates, or opposing pro-life “heartbeat” legislation, medical associations aren’t bashful about taking political positions.

One of the great myths of politics is that the policy stances of medical associations reflect the views of most doctors. But that claim is being dispelled more and more as medical associations continue to take political stances far afield from the mainstream of society.

For example, the American Medical Association (AMA) has debated removing sex from birth certificates, saying there is “no clear standard for defining sex designation” and that designating sex on birth certificates “as male or female suggests that sex is simple and binary.”

The AMA has also adopted a “strategic plan” to embed “racial justice and equity at the core of our AMA strategy” by “consistently using lenses of racial, gender, LGBTQ+, disability, class, and social justices.”

The AMA plan also decries “the myth of meritocracy, and other malignant narratives.”

In 2019, the AMA’s House of Delegates only narrowly rejected a measure to drop the organization’s longstanding opposition to a government-run health-care system.

Given those stances, it’s reasonable for citizens to wonder if the doctors involved in the AMA have the expertise to identify and slap a baby’s bottom, let alone deliver one. While the AMA portrays itself as the voice of most doctors, that isn’t the case. It’s estimated as few as 15 percent of doctors belong to the group. In other words, if you think the AMA’s policy stances appear to be fringe, the group’s lack of broad physician membership bolsters that conclusion.

At the state level, the Oklahoma State Medical Association (OSMA) claims to represent “4,000 physicians and medical students.” But that isn’t even half the physician workforce in Oklahoma.

And, like the AMA, the OSMA has taken stances that will surprise most Oklahomans.

This year, the OSMA opposed legislation that would have protected Oklahomans from “surprise” medical bills by requiring a good-faith cost estimate in advance of treatment.

The OSMA also opposed numerous bills focused on reducing abortion, even though numerous doctors statewide are not fans of abortion.

The OSMA also sued to overturn a new law that bans mask mandates when there is no declared health emergency. The evidence for mask effectiveness in reducing COVID-19 spread is, to be charitable, mixed at best, yet the OSMA wants government mandates to replace individual consultation with one’s physician when it comes to this decision.

Obviously, doctors have the right to join any group they prefer and to lobby politicians on issues. But the same is true for all Oklahomans of all backgrounds. There’s no reason policymakers should treat the views of groups like the AMA and OSMA as though they hold any special moral authority that exceeds the influence of other constituent groups—especially when membership data shows that many doctors hold views other than those espoused by the AMA and OSMA.

Jonathan Small President

Jonathan Small


Jonathan Small, C.P.A., serves as President and joined the staff in December of 2010. Previously, Jonathan served as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma Office of State Finance, as a fiscal policy analyst and research analyst for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and as director of government affairs for the Oklahoma Insurance Department. Small’s work includes co-authoring “Economics 101” with Dr. Arthur Laffer and Dr. Wayne Winegarden, and his policy expertise has been referenced by The Oklahoman, the Tulsa World, National Review, the L.A. Times, The Hill, the Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post. His weekly column “Free Market Friday” is published by the Journal Record and syndicated in 27 markets. A recipient of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s prestigious Private Sector Member of the Year award, Small is nationally recognized for his work to promote free markets, limited government and innovative public policy reforms. Jonathan holds a B.A. in Accounting from the University of Central Oklahoma and is a Certified Public Accountant.

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