Friday, July 17, 2009

Health Care Plan Endorsed by... AMA?

Interesting news, indeed.

The American Medical Association on Thursday endorsed a liberal health overhaul bill that includes a public insurance option, a bold step for a traditionally conservative group with a checkered past on health reforms.

In its strongest action yet signaling support for President Barack Obama's vow to reform health care, the nation's largest doctors' group sent letters to three House committees behind the bill. The letters, signed by AMA's executive vice president, Dr. Michael Maves, said the AMA appreciates and supports what is being called America's Affordable Health Choices Act.

Ponder this for a while with me. Because it makes my head hurt.

Obama gave a speech at the AMA about a month ago. Its reception was lukewarm, at best. The AMA stated they did not endorse Obama's plan for health care reform, and listed off a bunch of reasons I've since forgotten, and I'm too lazy to search for an hour. The public option topped the list, though. But whatever the case, they weren't thrilled. Members at the meeting likened the public option to communism. (Mental note: educate doctors about communism.)

Since then, many doctors have canceled their memberships to the AMA. You can read one doctor's tale here, which also includes some of the text of the AMA's original attack against the public option.

Now, this is all well and good -- people change their positions all the time. We're spending time trying to convince Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe that their current position is not the right one for Maine or the nation, and we will applaud them for it should they make such a change. But as elected officials, their changing of their stance would be simply explained as following the poll numbers, and heeding the call of the constituents who are speaking up the most and showing their support. The AMA has no such pressure.

So this is where I get confused. Is the AMA seriously pulling a 180 on this, and now supporting that which they opposed just over a month ago? Is this unprovoked? Did the membership cancellations spur this change on, like public pressure on our senators hopefully will? Was the pot merely sweetened in a good way for them, such as the elimination of an odious Medicare regulation that resulted in doctors making less money every year?

Or is there now -- among the hundred-plus Republican amendments to this bill -- a poison pill attached? Is there some small tweak in it, some change in wording, which will cause it to serve a different purpose than what is currently outlined? Is the public option as we envision it already dead? I for one will never be able to find an offending section when presented with 1,600 pages of legislation.

What do you guys think? Honest change of heart, covering their backsides, or something more sinister?

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