Tags: AMA | health | care

AMA: Public Health Insurance an Option

Friday, 03 Jul 2009 08:01 PM

By Ronald Kessler

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Dr. J. James Rohack, the new president of the American Medical, said this week the group is amenable to a government-funded health insurance option for people without coverage, according to a report by CNN.

This appears to be an about-face from what the doctors’ organization told the Senate Finance Committee last month:

“The AMA does not believe that creating a public health insurance option for non-disabled individuals under age 65 is the best way to expand health insurance coverage and lower costs. The introduction of a new public plan threatens to restrict patient choice by driving out private insurers, which currently provide coverage for nearly 70 percent of Americans.”

In the latest take on the hot button issue, Rohack told CNN that the AMA supports an “American model” that includes both “a private system and a public system, working together.”

In May, the AMA told a Senate committee it did not support a government-sponsored public health insurance option.

This week, the new AMA chief said that the Federal Employee Health Benefit Program (FEHBP) available to members of Congress members and other federal employees could be expanded as a public option.

“If it’s good enough for Congress, why shouldn’t it be good enough for individuals who don’t have health insurance provided by their employers?” Rohack said.

After the CNN report, however, pundits suggested that Rohack actually fell far short of outright endorsing a public option – noting that what is enjoyed as a perk on Capitol Hill was actually a choice of heavily regulated private insurance plans.

In the FEHBP, the government is not the insurance provider -- as it would be in the case of a public option.

The Daily Kos noted that Rohack studiously avoided using the word “public” in response to his questioners or in his own description of the AMA’s position.

In other points made by Rohack:

  • AMA opposed expanding Medicare coverage for senior citizens into a broader general public plan, noting that the plan is “going broke” and can’t cover the costs of participating doctors.

  • Conceded that health-related industries including drug companies were now acknowledging the need for reform, calling 2009 “the year we need to have affordable health insurance coverage for all Americans.”

  • Emphasized that a reformed system must include access for everyone, the freedom to choose your own doctor, and the freedom for doctors to provide the best care possible.

  • Endorsed electronic record-keeping to reduce administrative costs and protection for doctors from excessive malpractice lawsuits.

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