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Republian Op-Ed on Health Insurance

Today I learned that the AMA has issued an “unqualified endorsement” of the House Bill for health insurance overhaul. In my opinion, the AMA has sold out doctors, and most importantly, our patients, in supporting this government take over of our most private and personal freedom – our choices about when, where, and with whom we will have medical care when we are sick.

As a protest against their support of the House Health”care” Bill, I have resigned from the AMA after nearly thirty years of membership. Health “care” is a misnomer these days. It is more aptly called health “business” or services or insurance or policy. “Care” seems to have gone the way of the Dodo bird…every stakeholder in the game is looking out for their bottom line. Few seem to be looking out for patients. And reform? That’s not accurate either. What’s happening is a massive government “take-over” of all of your choices for your medical services.

In the current widespread concern about the health “care” proposals being pushed through Congress at the rate of a speeding bullet (and in my view, just as deadly), my patients have said to me over and over, “Can’t the AMA stop this government take over of our choices in medical services?” “Please write the AMA, they can help us!” Sadly, the AMA is not on the side of patients, or doctors either, for that matter when it endorses government run health care that outlaws private options. Surprisingly, only about one-third of the physicians in the United States are AMA members.

I used to think the American Medical Association, which I joined soon after graduating from medical school, was the “gold standard” of ethical guidelines for the practice of medicine dedicated to the care of patients. But the AMA as it functions now doesn’t really represent doctors or patients – it is in the business of medicine. Turns out the AMA is a gold mine, not a gold standard as I thought.

For example, one of its hugely profitable businesses is overseeing and selling the Coding Manuals doctors use to determine the insurance billing codes for procedures. It is so lucrative because they change the codes each year, and every doctor and hospital in the country has to buy new coding manuals and new computer software to use them or they can’t get reimbursements from insurance companies! The AMA wants to retain its revenues from its various businesses and data services, so it gave in and endorsed the House health “reform” bill. This “business” of medicine has co-opted the very values for which I originally joined the AMA.

I am only one doctor, and my membership fee makes little difference to such a massive organization. But the AMA endorsement of this take over of our health care system was the final straw. I no longer want to be a part of a professional group that has betrayed the people I care the most about, my patients.

Statistics from other countries with government run health systems make it clear how patients will be harmed under Washington’s draconian proposals. The House Bill clearly shows the big lie of the 2008 Democratic campaign promises: “If you like your health insurance, you can keep it.”

The 2009 House Bill specifically has a provision (see page 16) that would outlaw individual private health insurance coverage. Other proposals carry heavy financial or tax penalties for those who keep private insurance – if you can even buy it at all. The House Bill has specific language stating that no more new private policies can be written after the government plan “option” becomes law. That is a truly staggering violation of your freedom to choose your health care options for you and your family.

Most people will simply not have a “choice” about being in the “public” (meaning government run) plan. Various experts have estimated that 120 million Americans will lose their private insurance coverage as employers cut costs and send employees to the government plan that is 30-40% cheaper because taxpayers are providing the cost subsidies. Within two years, the private insurance market won’t have enough customers left to keep it alive. Another “dodo bird”…Extinct.

In order to pay for bringing more people into “free” care, Washington is already proposing 400-600 billion in further cuts for Medicare and Medicaid services. There is no way humanly possible that such massive dollar cuts can avoid causing long delays for access to care, rationing of services, and outright denial of certain treatments.

This is not just my personal opinion, nor is it hyperbole, as Democrats claim.

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