AMA Walks Back From Its Opposition To All Public Options

The American Medical Association is walking back from its strong opposition to the public option. This morning, the New York Times’ Robert Pear reported that in comments submitted to the Senate Finance Committee, the AMA stated that “the introduction of a new public plan threatens to restrict patient choice by driving out private insurers, which currently provide coverage for nearly 70 percent of Americans.”

But now, the AMA has issued a statement saying that it is willing to accept a public plan that looks like the private option:

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.”

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. A trigger proposal would postpone the enactment of a public option and the co-op public health alternatives would be unable to exert the purchasing power of a Medicare-like public option.