Six Physician Groups Launch Viral Campaign for Universal Coverage

Cheryl Clark , July 31, 2009

Setting itself apart from the American Medical Association, a coalition of 450,000 doctors in six physician groups is touting its new campaign, "Heal Health Care Now," to strongly back health reform and to urge their patients to do likewise.

The group of mostly primary care practitioners wants people to let their lawmakers know when they come home for August recess that health reform should be the nation's top priority.

"We want everybody to have healthcare, universal care, so nobody should face a personal catastrophe or bankruptcy when they have a medical event that can ruin a family's future," says Ted Epperly, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, a 94,000-member group, and a doctor in Boise, ID.

Epperly called the campaign "a viral video," with YouTube and other sorts of Internet-related messaging. "The goal is to have over one million people see it and spread it virally" across the country.

The group includes the AAFP, the American College of Physicians, the American Osteopathic Association, the American Medical Student Association, Doctors for America and the National Physicians Alliance.

The effort does not speak to specifics of what should be in the health reform bill, only that there should be reform. More to the point, the campaign strives to enact a national policy of universal coverage.

"We don't want to get into the weeds with all the unique aspects because it's so distracting," Epperly says. "We're taking a 75,000-foot view: Do you want healthcare reform or do you not? We want people and doctors to tell their lawmakers that they do."

Much of their emphasis for changing the current system focuses on reorienting the system to a prevention model. Without health reform now, he says, patients "will live sicker, and they will die younger."

Epperly says these physician groups support a public plan, but they want one that pays higher rates than Medicare and does not mandate that physicians participate; they should have a choice. Reform also should not create a public plan that is so competitive that it forces health insurance companies out of business.

The video idea was launched, Epperly says, as a way of making sure the public understands that the bulk of front-line doctors want health reform. The American Medical Association, which was initially conflicted on the issue and now backs H.R. 3200, has not been as forceful in its advocacy as these doctors would like.

"The AMA is a group that's like the bar scene in one of the first Star Wars movies, it struggles to find its voice, and often is seen as the 'Party of No,' Epperly says.


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