American Academy of Emergency Medicine

CMA Fights for Physicians in ACHP Suit

According to an article appearing in the June 3 issue of CMA Alert, a publication of the California Medical Association (CMA), the association's Board of Trustees has authorized CMA to file an amicus curiae brief in a lawsuit brought by Affiliated Catholic Healthcare Physicians (ACHP) against Emergency Physician Medical Group (EPMG) and Meriten Physician Management Company. The brief alleges that the activities resulting from a merger between Meriten and EPMG violate the corporate practice of medicine bar and laws prohibiting fee-splitting arrangements.

ACHP is a group of physicians who have exclusive contracts to staff some Catholic Healthcare West (CHW) emergency departments. The recent purchase of Meriten by CHW raises concerns that a Meriten-EPMG agreement will adversely impact contracts with the CHW emergency departments. According to ACHP, this will effect ACHP's ability to recruit and hire emergency physicians and the ability of affected physicians to sell their practices.

In responding to this news, AAEM president Robert McNamara, MD FAAEM, said "The fact that CMA has thrown its considerable weight as the largest and most powerful state medical society behind the emergency physicians fighting the EPMG-CHW deal is clearest evidence yet that ACEP, and not AAEM, is the 'radical EM group' outside the mainstream of organized medicine."

"AAEM members will recall," Dr. McNamara said, "that these EPs have been repeatedly refused assistance by ACEP with the response that this is a 'private business matter.' At the point of desperation these physicians contacted AAEM which embraced their efforts to preserve their independent practices and steered them into action regarding likely corporate practice of medicine violations and concerns about prohibited fee-splitting."

Dr. McNamara went on, "AAEM, despite threats of litigation, continues to provide support and welcomes the assistance of the CMA. The only 'radical' feature of organized Emergency Medicine is the lack of leadership by ACEP in fighting the corporate practice of EM and the sheep-like mentality of the majority of EPs who endorse this lack of action through dues support. I want to thank all AAEM members for standing up and joining the Academy so there can be an EM voice for the practicing physician in these critical matters."