NBC's Guthrie falsely suggests AMA represents "the nation's doctors"

››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

Savannah Guthrie falsely suggested that the American Medical Association represents all of "the nation's doctors." In fact, the AMA represents about 29 percent of licensed U.S. doctors, according to the AMA's own figures.

During the June 15 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, NBC News White House correspondent Savannah Guthrie falsely suggested that the American Medical Association (AMA) represents all of "the nation's doctors." In fact, the AMA -- which reportedly stated to Congress that it opposed "a public health insurance option" before backtracking from that position -- represents about 29 percent of licensed U.S. doctors, according to the AMA's own figures. Moreover, other doctors' groups, including the National Physicians Alliance and Physicians for a National Health Program, support some form of additional public insurance, as The Washington Post's Ezra Klein has noted.

During her appearance on Morning Joe, Guthrie referred to the AMA as "the nation's doctors" and "the doctors." Discussing a June 15 AMA meeting Obama plans to attend in Chicago, Guthrie stated: "He has to sell his plan, obviously, to the audience before him, which is the nation's doctors, but also the larger audience, and certainly an audience in Congress." Guthrie added, "And the doctors, in particular, are on record as opposing this notion of having a public plan, a government-sponsored insurance plan, alongside all the private plans that we are all familiar with. ... At the same time, there is no question that he really wants a public option to be part of whatever health-care reform looks like, and this is something the doctors oppose."

However, contrary to Guthrie's description of the AMA as "the nation's doctors" and "the doctors," the AMA does not represent the majority of doctors in the United States. According to its 2008 annual report, the AMA "is a national professional association of physicians with approximately 236 thousand members," and the AMA's online physician locator -- which states that it provides "basic professional information on virtually every licensed physician in the United States" -- includes "more than 814,000 doctors." A March 2005 USA Today article similarly reported that "[t]he nation now has about 800,000 active physicians." Based on the AMA figures, the association represents slightly less than 29 percent of licensed physicians in the United States.

As Klein noted in a June 11 washingtonpost.com blog entry, the National Physicians Alliance supports "a public plan," and Physicians for a National Health Program is in favor of a "single-payer" system of health care.

From the June 15 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

GUTHRIE: He has to sell his plan, obviously, to the audience before him, which is the nation's doctors, but also the larger audience, and certainly an audience in Congress. This is going to be a big week for health care, a lot of moving parts. And the doctors, in particular, are on record as opposing this notion of having a public plan, a government-sponsored insurance plan, alongside all the private plans that we are all familiar with.

This is something the president clearly supports, even though there's a lot of talk around here that the administration is flexible. At the same time, there is no question that he really wants a public option to be part of whatever health-care reform looks like, and this is something the doctors oppose.

Now there was a little bit of a clarification of that; the AMA later wrote a letter to the editor saying, well, we're open to other alternatives. But it's clear that they and a lot of folks in Congress, not just Republicans, some Democrats even, are fiercely opposed to this public plan option. That's going to be one of the biggest fights when it comes to health care reform this summer -- that, and of course, how to pay for it.

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform
Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Savannah Guthrie
Show/Publication
Morning Joe
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