The New York Times reported today that the American Medical Association (AMA) is opposed to the creation of a public health insurance option, telling the Senate Finance Committee that it “threatens to restrict patient choice by driving out private insurers, which currently provide coverage for nearly 70 percent of Americans.” Facing considerable attention (and criticism), AMA is now trying to spin its opposition:
Today’s New York Times story creates a false impression about the AMA’s position on a public plan option in health care reform legislation. The AMA opposes any public plan that forces physicians to participate, expands the fiscally-challenged Medicare program or pays Medicare rates, but the AMA is willing to consider other variations of the public plan that are currently under discussion in Congress. This includes a federally chartered co-op health plan or a level playing field option for all plans. The AMA is working to achieve meaningful health reform this year and is ready to stand behind legislation that includes coverage options that work for patients and physicians.
This statement really isn’t any better; AMA is still not committed to a robust public option. As Igor Volsky notes, “A public plan that lacks the ability to negotiate cheaper rates with providers and push private insurers to do the same is a public plan in name only. While it may provide a repository for individuals who don’t trust private insurers, it will be unable to significantly lower health care costs.”