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Letter to the President of the American Medical Association.

June 05, 1962

[Released June 5, 1962. Dated June 4, 1962]

Dear Dr. Larson:

Your letter to me of May twenty-fifth-which I read with interest in the newspapers of May twenty-sixth--has been received in this office and deserves an appropriate reply.

I appreciate your confidence that I "would not intentionally give the American people incorrect information about the American Medical Association or any other organization or individual." Your letter objects to my news conference statement that the AMA was among the opponents of the original Social Security System. If your letter endorses the Social Security concept on behalf of the AMA--if it signifies a willingness on the part of the AMA to include doctors under its coverage-if it repudiates the statement made by Dr. Annis on May twenty-first which implies that Social Security "has to be bad to begin with" and is a "free ride (for) those who do not need these benefits" at the taxpayers' expense--then I am certain that your letter will be enthusiastically welcomed by the great majority of the American people.

On the other hand, if the AMA has never opposed Social Security, some questions may be asked in order to set the record straight:

--Why did Dr. Fishbein, the official spokesman for the AMA, make a statement in November 1939 at the request of the AMA Board of Trustees, and publish it in the Journal of the AMA in December 1939, with the following remarks about Social Security: "Indeed, all forms of security, compulsory security, even against old age and unemployment, represent a beginning invasion by the state into the personal life of the individual, represent a taking away of individual responsibility, a weakening of national caliber, a definite step toward either communism or totalitarianism." (JAMA, Vol. 113, No. 27, December 30, 1939, page a428.)?

--Why did the AMA in 1949 send to every member of Congress a resolution adopted by the House of Delegates of the AMA containing the following statement: "So-called 'social security' is in fact a compulsory socialistic tax which has not provided satisfactory insurance protection for individuals where it has been tried but instead, has served as the entering wedge for establishment of a socialistic form of governmental control over the lives and fortunes of the people..." (JAMA, Vol. 140, No. 8, June 25, 1949, page 693; No. 9, July 2, 1949, pages 791-2.)?

--Why did the AMA House of Delegates in December 1953 state that it had "in the past registered its disapproval of the principle involved" in Social Security--and why is it I have repeatedly read critical references to Social Security in the Journal and Proceedings of the AMA?

I did not mean to imply that it was the AMA who had originally applied to the Social Security System the term "cruel hoax" which Dr. Annis had used to describe our medical insurance program--but I am certain you will recall that this very phrase was used by the opponents of Social Security in the 1930's. If your organization did not oppose Social Security before its enactment--only afterwards--I will be glad to point out this unique distinction at my next press conference.



[Dr. Leonard W. Larson, President, American Medical Association, 535 North Dearborn Street, Chicago 10, Ill .]

Note: Dr. Larson's letter was made public at the American Medical Association headquarters in Chicago prior to its receipt at the White House.

The statement by Dr. Edward R. Annis of Miami was made in a telecast on May 21.

John F. Kennedy, Letter to the President of the American Medical Association. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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