Trust yours but are 250000 other doctors lying to Congress? AMA Opposes Public Health Option.

The New York Times reports that the American Medical Association "will oppose creation of a government-sponsored insurance plan" because "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 opposition, which comes as Mr. Obama prepares to address the powerful doctors’ group on Monday in Chicago, could be a major hurdle for advocates of a public insurance plan. The A.M.A., with about 250,000 members, is America’s largest physician organization.

While committed to the goal of affordable health insurance for all, the association had said in a general statement of principles that health services should be “provided through private markets, as they are currently.” It is now reacting, for the first time, to specific legislative proposals being drafted by Congress.


If private insurers are pushed out of the market, the group said, “the corresponding surge in public plan participation would likely lead to an explosion of costs that would need to be absorbed by taxpayers.”

While not the political behemoth it once was, the association probably has more influence than any other group in the health care industry.


The Association represents interests of 180 groups of physicians and the health care industry represents roughly a sixth of the US economy according to President Obama.  Combining that fact with the personal care and trust most Americans attribute to their doctors, one would normally consider the policy arguments of the AMA with high regard. 

Recent history supports that assumption, for example, with the 2005 Gallup report that showed two-thirds of Americans trusted physicians as having "high" or "very high" "honesty and ethical standards." 

Perhaps the NYT story presages a continuation of the downward trend showing they'd fallen to fifth place from second, among the twenty-one professions considered in 2003.

Perhaps it's the company kept by AMA members since "the group has historically had a strong lobbying operation, supplemented by generous campaign donations?"  But something must explain the divergence of the policy stance held by the organization as compared to that of single-payer advocates interviewed by Bill Moyers last week. 

The positions of these doctors reside at the opposite end of the policy spectrum where they can cite a real-world example where the cost-inflating private-sector was completely eliminated to cut the per-person bill for medical treatment to one-half of what Americans pay. 

And the other arguments are in keeping with an unavoidable conclusion, that either Doctors Wolfe and Hmmelstein blatantly lied through the teeth in grandest fashion to their PBS host, or the American Medical Association is advocating policy that designs to favor the best interests of someone besides the American public. 

I invite you to read the transcript-excerpt below the fold but strongly urge that you watch the Moyers interview that I linked a few days ago.

Then ask yourself, just who can you trust to provide the wisest advice to our Congresspeople? 

The AMA recorded its own slide down the slope of American trust (which, by the way, ranked nurses the highest in 2005!) while single-payer advocates have been locked out of all the roundtables, so far, because the big-money interests have ensured that their profit must be part of Congress's health-care 'reform' legislation.  

Or it won't pass!

[Full transcript here]

BILL MOYERS: I've heard you say that several times. I've read you're saying it. We can do away with the health industry. I mean, them's fightin' words, a very powerful part of the economy, and they're a powerful part of the political statute, as David said.

DR. SIDNEY WOLFE: It absolutely is. And in Canada, back in 1970 or so, they were spending the same percentage of their gross national product as we were on health. They had huge numbers of uninsured people. They had the same insurance companies. Blue Cross Blue Shield. They decided to just get rid of the health insurance industry. That it was the only way to go. They had experimented with it in Saskatchewan ten years earlier. It worked so well, they couldn't wait to do it nationally. So, where there's a will, there's a way. There is no way we are ever going to get to having good health insurance for everyone, as long as there's a health insurance industry, in the way, obstructing care.

BILL MOYERS: What do you say to the argument, though, of people who've gone to Canada, and looked at that system. "Well, there are long waiting lines. You can't choose your doctor." In fact, conservative critics say that this will lead to what they dread which is socialized medicine. Would single-payer in fact mean I could not choose my doctor?

DR. DAVID HIMMELSTEIN: Well, in Canada, actually, you can go to any doctor, any hospital in the country.

DR. SIDNEY WOLFE: Much more choice than here.

DR. DAVID HIMMELSTEIN: Yeah, Canadians have better choice than we do. They spend half as much per person on health care as we do. And if you're going to cut our budget by 50 percent, we'd have to have some waiting lines. But if we're willing to keep spending at our current levels, we could cover everybody with first dollar coverage with terrific access to care.

BILL MOYERS: What do you mean first dollar coverage?

DR. DAVID HIMMELSTEIN: No co-payment, no deductible. You go to the doctor. The whole bill is paid. Any doctor, any hospital in the country. That's the model. And that's not just me who says that. The Congressional Budget Office has said that in the past. The Government Accountability Office says we're spending enough to do that. And we're really talking about social insurance, like Medicare is social insurance. But doctors and hospitals remaining privately owned.


In case you are interested, I'm trusting the little guys' side.

No votes yet


You might be able to use this to add some extra perspective to this. It is not like the AMA has ever advocated aginst the interests of its own members, is it?

I'm out of here: A physician's goodbye to the AMA

And so it's really no surprise that for over twenty years I have been a member of the American Medical Association.

I've never really paid much attention to what they do. I've had a vague sense that they are more focused on the well-being of physicians rather than the well-being of the health care system, but I'm a joiner.

It seemed to make sense, being part of the community of physicians. And it was part of joining our local medical association.

But now I'm gone.

"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country." - Thomas Jefferson