More M.D. Groups Get Behind Health Care Reform

Posted by: Greg T. Spielberg on June 26

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As the battle rages in Washington over health care reform, Americans are consistent in their desire for a public option, according to recent surveys. More important – for the prospect of getting true reform through the government – is a convergence of support from lawmakers, the president and major physician’s organizations. As BusinessWeek’s senior writer Catherine Arnst reports, the American Medical Association (AMA) has put the toetag on most consumer-based health care reform for the past century. Long the industry’s dominant interest group, the AMA will likely enjoy less lobbying power and political sway this time around as other sizable physician groups get behind their patients.

The American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Physicians and American Osteopathic Association, who collectively represent more than 330,000 physicians, released a joint statement June 18 in support of reform. High on their priority list is for the government to “implement new payment models to support patient-centered primary care.” The National Physicians Alliance (NPA), a coalition of eight groups – including the AAFP – that represents 200,000 physicians, supports the public option. Princeton economics professor and New York Times blogger Uwe E. Reinhardt says the alliances are significant but that their political clout is still unproven.

Clout doesn’t come without a campaign, and the NPA’s President-Elect Dr. Valerie Arkoosh will lobby for the public option on TV airwaves in six states. Dr. Chris McCoy, policy chair for the NPA, publicly slammed the American Medical Association. In a maneuver that can’t be fixed by stitches, McCoy wrote on the Huffington Post:

“It would appear that the AMA’s position against the public health insurance market is driven by out-dated political ideology that blindly supports private industry rather than a careful examination of the facts of the current situation.”

An AMA study from earlier this year claims that in more than 90% of metropolitan markets, a paucity of insurance options leaves patients “vulnerable to the demands of the health insurer.” With health care costs outpacing inflation, Americans have been forced to divert money from essentials in order to foot their medical bills. Arnst reports that 62% of all personal bankruptcies filed in 2007 were caused by medical bills, a staggering 54% increase from 1981.

It’s not just the nuclear family Americans are looking after. Almost 60% said the country as a whole would be better off with public-option reform, according to Kaiser. If the natural laws of competition hold, another health-insurance option will decrease costs. Having more players in the health-care debate is a reason to be optimistic for our chances.

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Read the recent EBRI or Kaiser study.

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BusinessWeek’s Joe Weber, Patricia O'Connell, Michelle Conlin, Frederik Balfour, Peter Coy, Greg Spielberg and Roger Crockett examine The Case for Optimism by looking past the financial turmoil and economic unrest gripping the globe to focus on the promising future that lies on the other side of this storm. We’ll chronicle the forward thinkers investing in R&D, launching promising new products, entering new markets, or implementing management and leadership.

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