We typically think of the AMA as the place we go for information like how often we should get a checkup before decidedly ignoring their recommendations. We look to them as the highest authority on medical issues, a voice of reason that doesn't usually get more controversial than "vaccinate your kids" and only wants what's best for us. That's why it's so weird to find out how ruthlessly they've fought against the idea of letting poor people see a doctor.
Through the National Physicians' Committee, a lobbyist organization that has been described as anywhere from "closely associated" with the AMA to "a front set up by the AMA to protect its tax-exempt status by insulating the parent group against complaints of lobbying," they've been campaigning against any form of government health care since the late '30s, but things really amped up during the debate over Truman's 1945 National Health Act.
It was a heated issue from its first hearing, with senators barking at each other "You are so self-opinionated, and you think that you are so important that you can come into this meeting and disrupt it," which is as close as senators get to saying "Screw around and find out," and then the AMA decided to inject themselves cartoonishly into it. Literally. They sent a bunch of doctors and pharmacists a 24-page brochure titled Showdown on Political Medicine filled with apocalyptic warnings about government healthcare and cartoons even the vilest propagandists would call "a bit much."
The brochures were displayed and handed out to patients and combined with the conservative opposition's scaremongering, the public was soon in a frenzy over Truman's evil plan to socialize their babies. The bill was put on the back-burner, a war happened, and everyone just kind of forgot about it, and that's why you have to pay $200 to even walk into an ER 70 years later. Even today, the AMA still opposes a single-payer system, though they have somewhat relaxed their position on letting the poor die in the streets. Truly, they are on the cutting edge of medicine.
Top Image: Chicago Daily News, New York Journal-Americans