KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Obama Asks AMA To Support Health Care Overhaul Efforts

President Barack Obama delivered a speech today to the American Medical Association House of Delegates, which was meeting in Chicago. 

Bloomberg reports that "President Barack Obama told the nation's doctors they should support his health-care overhaul plan because the current system is turning them into 'bean- counters and paper-pushers' rather than healers." He said that "the U.S. operates under a model that 'rewards the quantity of care rather than the quality of care,' and a model that has "taken the pursuit of medicine from a profession -- a calling -- to a business." In speaking to the AMA, Obama was taking his health reform pitch "directly to a constituency whose support he will need to get his proposal passed. 'We're going to need the help of the AMA,' he said." Obama outlined his continued support for the "creation of a government-run plan that will provide an option for those without insurance." The public plan option has been a target for Republican opposition in Congress, and "some Democrats say there may not be enough support in the Senate to get it passed." Meanwhile, "AMA president Nancy Nielsen said in a statement June 11 that the group 'opposes any public plan that forces physicians to participate.' Nielsen said the organization is 'willing to consider' variations of the public plan being debated by lawmakers" (Johnston, 6/15).

The Associated Press reports that, during his speech, Obama "pushed hard... for a health care overhaul, saying the system is 'a ticking bomb' for the budget that could force America to 'go the way of GM' without a legislative fix. He said the "existing system leaves too many uninsured and forces 'excessive defensive medicine' by doctors worried about malpractice suits. He also declared once again that he does not favor socialized medicine and cautioned people to beware of 'scare tactics and fear-mongering' by critics who make this claim." He told the AMA audience "that he's 'open' to requiring all Americans to have health insurance, while stressing that the plan would permit continuing assistance for those who cannot afford it on their own." He added that a "health care exchange" would be set up to provide additional options for the uninsured (Babington, 6/15).

The Hill reports that "Obama told the AMA that he is open to exploring some ways to reform malpractice suits, but said he does not favor capping awards." In describing his prescription for health care reform, Obama "told the group that he recognizes that it will be difficult for doctors to adhere to some of the things he wants to do if they 'feel like they are constantly looking over their shoulder for fear of lawsuits.'"

"'Some doctors may feel the need to order more tests and treatments to avoid being legally vulnerable,' Obama said. 'That's a real issue. And while I'm not advocating caps on malpractice awards, which I believe can be unfair to people who've been wrongfully harmed, I do think we need to explore a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first, let doctors focus on practicing medicine, and encourage broader use of evidence-based guidelines.'" 

When discussing the $1 trillion price tag over 10 years Obama said it "sounds like a lot of money -- and it is -- but remember: it is less than we are projected to spend on the war in Iraq" (Youngman, 6/15).

NPR notes the significance of Obama's speech to the AMA. "President Obama this morning wandered into what in the past has been the burial ground of health overhaul efforts past -- the House of Delegates of the American Medical Association. This is a group, remember, that gave Hillary Clinton a standing ovation. So don't judge anything by how polite and/or warm they are."

Obama "started out by reiterating the problem – again. … 'If we do not fix our health care system, America may go the way of GM; paying more, getting less, and going broke'" (Rovner, 6/15).

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