Magazine article Medical Economics

The AMA's Cure for the Uninsured

Magazine article Medical Economics

The AMA's Cure for the Uninsured

Article excerpt

Perspective

To many on the left, the AMAs longstanding opposition to anything that smacks of government-controlled healthcare is little more than obstructionism. The latest blast comes from documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, who in Sicko ridicules the doctor group for its stance against Medicare and "socialized medicine" more than 40 years ago.

Times change, though, and so has the AMA, at least somewhat. If its opposition to national health insurance or a single payer system is as strong today as it's ever been, it's no longer willing to be seen as simply obstructionist or indifferent. The run-up to the 2008 elections has only heightened that unwillingness, especially on the hot-button issue of Americans without health insurance.

Late last month, the AMA announced with great fanfare its three-year, multimillion-dollar campaign to cover the uninsured, now at 47 million. Using a variety of media, including print and broadcast, the campaign will use real people to dramatize their plight.

"This isn't just a consciousness raising effort," says President-elect Nancy H. Nielsen, the Buffalo, NY, internist who will spearhead the campaign. If all goes as planned, Nielsen and the AMA would like to see legislation to cover the uninsured by 2009. They'd also like a say, of course, in what that legislation actually looks like.

Counting on core assumptions

The AMA plan - parts of which have been around for years - is spelled out in a 24page proposal, available on the campaign's website (www.voicefortheuninsured.org). At its center is a system of refundable tax credits, adjusted by income, to help lower-income people purchase health coverage, whether individually or through an employer-sponsored program. As for people in the higher income brackets, they may qualify for some subsidies but they'll lose their federal income tax exclusion for employment-based benefits - which means that the value of those benefits must henceforth be reported to the 1RS as taxable income. …

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