Obama To AMA: ‘The Public Option Is Not Your Enemy, It Is Your Friend’

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"Obama To AMA: ‘The Public Option Is Not Your Enemy, It Is Your Friend’"

Last week, the American Medical Association issued a statement opposing “the introduction of a new public plan.” But today, in a speech to the organization, President Obama reiterated his support for a new public insurance plan:

If you don’t like your health coverage or don’t have any insurance, you will have a chance to take part in what we’re calling a Health Insurance Exchange…And one of these options needs to be a public option that will give people a broader range of choices and inject competition into the health care market so that force waste out of the system and keep the insurance companies honest.

Watch it:

In its initial statement, the AMA argued 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” and later explained that it opposed “any public plan that forces physicians to participate, expands the fiscally-challenged Medicare program or pays Medicare rates” but “is willing to consider other variations of the public plan that are currently under discussion in Congress.”

Indeed, over the past week, lawmakers have began strongly considering alternatives to the public health option, with many embracing Sen. Kent Conrad’s (D-ND) “cooperative” compromise. But in his speech today, Obama reiterated his strong support for a truly national public health insurance plan. Obama told doctors, “I understand that you are concerned that today’s Medicare rates will be applied broadly in a way that means our cost savings are coming off your backs….With reform, we will ensure that you are being reimbursed in a thoughtful way tied to patient outcomes instead of relying on yearly negotiations about the Sustainable Growth Rate formula that’s based on politics and the state of the federal budget in any given year…The public option is not your enemy, it is your friend, I believe.”

Pushing back against critics who argue that a new public option would lead to a government takeover of health care, Obama reiterated his support for allowing Americans to keep their current coverage. “It is important for us to build on our traditions here in the United States. So, when you hear the naysayers claim that I’m trying to bring about government-run health care, know this – they are not telling the truth,” Obama said.

Transcript :

You will have a chance to take part in what we’re calling a Health Insurance Exchange. This Exchange will allow you to one-stop shop for a health care plan, compare benefits and prices, and choose a plan that’s best for you and your family – just as federal employees can do, from a postal worker to a Member of Congress. You will have your choice of a number of plans that offer a few different packages, but every plan would offer an affordable, basic package. And one of these options needs to be a public option that will give people a broader range of choices and inject competition into the health care market so that force waste out of the system and keep the insurance companies honest.

Now, I know there’s some concern about a public option. In particular, I understand that you are concerned that today’s Medicare rates will be applied broadly in a way that means our cost savings are coming off your backs. These are legitimate concerns, but ones, I believe, that can be overcome. As I stated earlier, the reforms we propose are to reward best practices, focus on patient care, not the current piece-work reimbursement. What we seek is more stability and a health care system on a sound financial footing. And these reforms need to take place regardless of what happens with a public option. With reform, we will ensure that you are being reimbursed in a thoughtful way tied to patient outcomes instead of relying on yearly negotiations about the Sustainable Growth Rate formula that’s based on politics and the state of the federal budget in any given year. The alternative is a world where health care costs grow at an unsustainable rate, threatening your reimbursements and the stability of our health care system. The public option is not your enemy, it is your friend, I believe.

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