Last week the American Medical Association trotted out its wipey board and wrote the word “obesity” under the heading of “AMA Officially Recognized Diseases.” It’s an indication of how disengaged the AMA is from the reality of healthcare or caring about your health.

The performance of American medicine is at an all-time low while costs are at an all-time high. With outrageously and randomly assigned healthcare pricing, less-than-optimum treatment outcomes, Big Pharma’s record profits and price gouging, embarrassing rankings in healthcare assessments and disturbing Government complicity, American medicine is in need of triage. And a leading actor in that dysfunction is the AMA.

By adding obesity to its list of official diseases, the AMA opens the door for institutional advocacy promoting treatment schedules based on drugs and interventions, some yet to come to market. Naming a disease is crucial to developing schemes to squeeze money out of the sick or those who believe they’re sick, often by ineffectively treating a symptom or behavior that has been officially labeled a disease. The New York Times reported that “medicalizing” obesity would define one-third of Americans as being ill and could lead to more reliance on costly drugs and surgery rather than lifestyle changes. Do tell.

It’s in code. Have you ever wondered why every disease, medical procedure, symptom that gets treated has a catchy acronym, a special code? It didn’t used to be that way. Long ago, the list of acronyms describing a common disease kind of started and ended with “TB.” All of a sudden, sometime in the late 20th century, we started seeing a list of diseases we didn’t even know existed: COPD, ED, ADD, BPPV, GERD, IBS, HIV, HPV, OCD, UTI, RLS, SARS, PMDD, SAD, MERS — the list goes on and on. And it gets more complicated when it comes to billing and medical records. Those numbers and code letters are what allow a doctor or hospital to be reimbursed either by Medicare or insurers. And guess who assigns those codes? You got it: the AMA. In fact, they copyright them. And the AMA makes millions from those simple letters.

They’re called Current Procedural Terminology codes (CPT) and in 1983, an agreement between the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) and the AMA made the AMA copyrighted versions the sole coding system to be used for billing Medicare and consequently other pay providers like HMOs and insurance. A cash cow was born. No code, no cash.

The graven image of the AMA is of an organization of doctors representing your family physician and striving to protect public health. If “follow the money” is any indication, then the AMA works for Big Pharma and the federal government. Those two sign big-bucks paychecks to the AMA. Actual doctor membership in the AMA has been steadily decreasing, now estimated to represent a paltry 15 percent of American practicing physicians. Those dues account for around 16 percent of AMA revenue. Though membership is declining, AMA profits are rising. How do they do it? If it’s not in the business of being an association of doctors then what does the AMA do? Easy: It makes money. Lots of money. And it spends it on making more money and trying to shape public perception and policy to make money for friends of the AMA; friends like Big Pharma and companies that pay the AMA to endorse products.

Endorsing or promoting private industry products isn’t new to the AMA. Doctors were featured in ads for cigarettes in the 1940s and ‘50s. There was a time not long ago when the biggest advertiser in the AMA’s journal was the tobacco industry! Today, the stakes have risen. And it’s even more insidious now. The AMA has figured out that healthcare and healing are not the goal. They are simply the means to an end: profit.

Stupid in a pill bottle. It’s hard to figure out who is more stupid: the lackeys who tout the AMA’s version of snake oil or the general public who buy into it. A study issued last week by the Mayo Clinic showed 70 percent of Americans on at least one prescription drug. Just what the disease mongerers want: a captive, dependent and coerced customer base. How stupid can we be?

Watch network news some evening. Nearly every ad is for a prescription drug, not about healing or life-saving but about bigger boners or drug-induced dreams of animated butterflies. Though ads spend more airtime announcing disclaimers, dangers and deadly side effects, Americans still snap up prescription drugs like hard candy. Why? Maybe because the United States is the only country in the world, with one minor exception, (New Zealand,) that allows marketing of prescription drugs directly to the public.

Obesity isn’t a disease. It’s a symptom, a symptom of an illness that stretches across our social, economic, physical and moral wellbeing. The cause is driven by greed and now the AMA opens the door for a new cash-cow scheme to fill the coffers. Stupidity could be next.

Be well.

Heartland Healing is a New Age polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. It is not an endorsement of any particular therapy, either by the writer or The Reader. Visit for more information.

Subscribe to The Reader Newsletter

Our awesome email newsletter briefing tells you everything you need to know about what’s going on in Omaha. Delivered to your inbox every day at 11:00am.

Become a Supporting Member

Subscribe to and become a supporting member to keep locally owned news alive. We need to pay writers, so you can read even more. We won’t waste your time, our news will focus, as it always has, on the stories other media miss and a cultural community — from arts to foods to local independent business — that defines us. Please support your locally-owned news media by becoming a member today.

Leave a comment