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"health overhaul bill that includes a public insurance option!..."

Health Insurance AMA (The AMA Endorsement)

The American Medical Association on Thursday endorsed a liberal health overhaul bill that includes a public insurance option, a bold step for a traditionally conservative group with a checkered past on health reforms.

In its strongest action yet signaling support for President Barack Obama's vow to reform health care, the nation's largest doctors' group sent letters to three House committees behind the bill. The letters, signed by AMA's executive vice president, Dr. Michael Maves, said the AMA appreciates and supports what is being called America's Affordable Health Choices Act.

The bill would create a health insurance exchange, or "marketplace for individuals and small employers to comparison shop among private and public insurers." It wouldn't force patients or doctors into plans — a fear some physicians have had about the concept of public health insurance.

Another selling point is the bill's proposed Medicare reforms, including repeal of what AMA considers a flawed formula that has annually reduced Medicare reimbursements to physicians.

But the public option proposal is most controversial for the AMA; some member physicians at the group's annual meeting last month likened the notion to communism.

A personal appeal from Obama at the Chicago meeting won over some doctors and the group's policy-making delegates ended up adopting a measure signaling openness to reform that includes a public option. Obama said in a Thursday statement he was "grateful that the doctors of the AMA have chosen to support" the health insurance reform.

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a liberal think-tank, called the AMA's endorsement "a tremendous coup." He said it could create momentum for other groups to back Obama's health reform efforts and make opposing Republicans seem like obstructionists.

The bill's proposed public health option would create a new choice in places now dominated by one or two private insurers, according to a summary of the bill on the House Ways and Means Committee Web site. "It will be subject to the same market reforms and consumer protections as other private plans in the exchange and it will be self-sustaining — financed only by its premiums," the summary says.

Dr. J. James Rohack, AMA's president, told The Associated Press that the group's endorsement shouldn't be seen as the AMA turning more liberal.

"It's not blue or red, or Democratic or Republican. This is something that is the AMA's core values," Rohack said. "The status quo that is 50 million Americans not having health insurance, a system that has administrative waste and as a result drives up premiums so that it is unaffordable for many patients — that is just not acceptable."

The AMA has long believed any health system reform can be achieved by revamping private health insurance plans. It fought the creation of Medicare and succeeded in delaying its debut decades ago. That was when it had more clout; its membership has dwindled to include barely one-fourth of the nation's doctors.

Still, it remains a vigorous lobbyist, and Baker said its full-hearted backing of a proposal that includes a public option could be a turning point. "I was certainly surprised," he said. "I didn't really expect them to be on board."

Republian (Response) to above Health Insurance story

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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