One month after the American Medical Association came out strongly against a public health insurance plan as part of national healthcare reform legislation, the nation's largest and most influential physicians organization today switched course dramatically by publicly endorsing HR 3200, the House legislation that includes the public plan as a centerpiece provision.
"The status quo is unacceptable," says J. James Rohack, MD, who took over as AMA president in June. "We support passage of H.R. 3200, and we look forward to additional constructive dialogue as the long process of passing a health reform bill continues. This is an important step, but one of many steps in the process."
Rohack says the AMA is working with Congress and the Obama administration to construct a workable healthcare reform package. "We are committed to passing health reform this year consistent with principles of pluralism, freedom of choice, freedom of practice, and universal access for patients," he says.
This spring, AMA had complained to the Senate Finance Committee that a public health insurance plan "threatens to restrict patient choice by driving out private insurers."
But, today, the complaints had turned to compliments. "This legislation includes a broad range of provisions that are key to effective, comprehensive health system reform," says Rohack in a statement issued to the media. "We urge the House committees of jurisdiction to pass the bill for consideration by the full House."
Supporters of the public plan–including President Barack Obama—say providing benchmark competition is the only way to keep private insurance companies honest and control costs. Opponents say the public plan is the first step in a march toward government-controlled, single-payer healthcare.