Posted on June 11, 2009

AMA and PNHP on public insurance


Doctors’ Group Opposes Public Insurance Plan

By Robert Pear
The New York Times
June 10, 2009

As the health care debate heats up, the American Medical Association is letting Congress know that it will oppose creation of a government-sponsored insurance plan, which President Obama and many other Democrats see as an essential element of legislation to remake the health care system.

… in comments submitted to the Senate Finance Committee, the American Medical Association said: “The A.M.A. 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.”

The A.M.A., an umbrella group for 180 medical societies, does not speak for all doctors. One group, Physicians for a National Health Program, supports a single-payer system of insurance, in which a single public agency would pay for health services, but most care would still be delivered by private doctors and hospitals.


By Don McCanne, MD

In opposing a government-sponsored insurance plan, why would the AMA limit its objection to a public plan that would cover only non-disabled individuals under age 65? What about those over 65 and those with long-term disabilities? Of course, they are covered by Medicare, a plan that the AMA continues to lobby for, even though they were vehemently opposed to it before it was enacted.

We can only speculate as to why the AMA leadership would object to including everyone in an improved version of our very successful Medicare program. Some believe that the AMA House of Delegates is still dominated by right-wing reactionaries, as it was during the Medicare battles. A more likely explanation is that physicians, who are uniformly unhappy with both private and public insurance programs, may perceive a greater opportunity to bypass the third-party payers in the market of private sector plans that use high-deductibles, health savings accounts, and other payment innovations that would allow physicians to capture a greater portion of their often-unrealistic list fees.

Fortunately, many physicians believe that patients, all patients, are more important than wealth-creating opportunities. That’s what Physicians for a National Health Program is all about.