July 1st, 2009
06:04 PM ET
14 years ago

AMA president: group open to government-funded health care

(CNN) - The new president of the American Medical Association, which represents the interests of the nation's doctors, said Wednesday the group is open to a government-funded health insurance option for people without coverage.

Dr. J. James 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.

"The AMA does not believe that creating a public health insurance option ... is the best way to expand health insurance coverage and lower costs across the health care system," the organization wrote, explaining that a public insurance plan could lead to "an explosion of costs that would need to be absorbed by taxpayers."

Rohack, who recently became AMA president, suggested Wednesday that the Federal Employee Health Benefit Program available to Congress members and other federal employees could be expanded as a public option. That would avoid having to create a new program from scratch, he said.

"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.

He said AMA opposed expanding Medicare coverage for senior citizens into a broader general public plan, noting that the plan is "going broke" and fails to cover the costs of participating doctors.

His comments come as President Barack Obama increases pressure on Congress to push through a comprehensive bill to reform the nation's ailing health care system this year.

Obama told a town hall meeting on health care Wednesday that the rising costs of health care threatened the economy and were unsustainable. He also noted that health-related industries including drug companies were now acknowledging the need for reform.

Rohack called 2009 "the year we need to have affordable health insurance coverage for all Americans."

He said a reformed system must include access for everyone, the freedom to choose your doctor, and the freedom for doctors to provide the best possible care.

Rohack also called for efficiency measures such as electronic record-keeping to reduce administrative costs, as well as protection for doctors from excessive malpractice lawsuits.

The 162-year-old AMA has about 250,000 members, including practicing physicians along with medical students and retired doctors. Overall, there are more than 900,000 doctors in the United States.

Obama recently delivered a major health care policy speech at the AMA's annual meeting in Chicago.

–CNN's Elizabeth Cohen contributed to this story

Filed under: Health care
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Lilarose in Bandon, Oregon

    My kids live with Medicare for ALL in Australia, and they have never had any complaints.

    I have friends who are not kids nor are they eligible to Medicare who have NO medical insurance, and they are terribly worried about declining health.

    July 1, 2009 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  2. m

    He said AMA opposed expanding Medicare coverage for senior citizens into a broader general public plan, noting that the plan is "going broke" and fails to cover the costs of participating doctors.

    My office just recently decided to accept Medicare. We received our fist reimbursement check the other day.

    For $5600 in services for 84 claims submitted we receive $28.

    So, NO... it does not cover the costs of participating doctors. We may have to reconsider accepting Medicare if this continues.

    Apparently we are no good at socialized medicine. Let's learn from this and not try to repeat a failing program.

    July 1, 2009 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  3. Joe

    Your description of the AMA is incorrect. If the AMA represented at least 50% of our doctors, than maybe you could state that they "represents the interests of the nation's doctors."

    July 1, 2009 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  4. linda

    why give us something the dr. want take
    iv tried to get a dr. now for3 mont hs and they all say the same thing
    then goverment dont the bills.
    they dont take the insurance

    July 1, 2009 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  5. Steve, Columbia SC

    Now I'm curious who bought the support of the AMA. They will live to regret that support.

    July 1, 2009 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  6. Mark,B'ham,Al.

    The AMA like business is afraid of the strong arming by this administration to tow the politically correct line. Even if it cost them. The doctors who are suppose to go back to their country to practice medicine after training realize they are going to make a whole lot less than they do in America.

    July 1, 2009 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |