One interesting part of the Obamacare debate is the number of individuals and organizations publicly endorsing the President’s plan against the will (and the best interests) of their constituency.
Just one look at the Town Hall meetings, where members of the House and Senate are facing voters frustrated and angry, and very vocally expressing their anger at their representatives for not listening to their objections concerning the Obamacare bills.
AARP has also faced the wrath of its members wanting to know how a senior advocacy organization could support a plan which is potentially so dangerous for their membership. Last night the group announced it has lost at least 60,000 members because of their on again/off again support of Obamacare.
Another organization supporting the President’s health care power grab is the American Medical Association. Like the AARP, this group supports the bill, disregarding the will and the needs of its membership. This group too is facing a revolt of its membership:
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Doctors Versus The AMADavid Whelan, 08.17.09, 1:15 PM ET
James Klemis, an interventional cardiologist who practices in Memphis, was at a lake house on a Saturday earlier this month when he got a text message from a friend about a health care town meeting that evening. He jumped in his car and drove 45 minutes to an inner-city auditorium. There he met up with 15 of his doctor colleagues, who all showed up to give their congressman, Steve Cohen, an earful.
“It’s a very poorly crafted plan that’s being rushed through,” Klemis says, who spoke out against what he called socialized medicine at the event.
Doctors like Klemis are organizing against ObamaCare all over the country. Yet it’s without the support of the biggest national doctors lobby, the American Medical Association. Within two days of the House passing its health bill through the Energy and Commerce Committee in late July, the AMA gave the President a rare bit of good news by endorsing the bill.
It was a shock to many of the group’s 250,000 doctor members. The bill contains a vigorous new public health plan for people under the age of 65. The Lewin Group, a research organization owned by UnitedHealth, estimates that the legislation would cause somewhere between 34 million and 85 million people to go from having private to government insurance and would pay doctors on average 14% less than private HMOs. This weekend, there were reports that the White House is floating the idea of reform without a public plan, though all the bills that have made it through committee contain one.
Just like the AARP has had to backtrack in its support of ObamaCare since it became clear that many older people fear they will lose Medicare benefits, the AMA has also begun to backtrack some, saying that it expects the final bill to look different. Says AMA President James Rohack in a statement: “We’re at the beginning of the process, and we’ll stay engaged to improve the final bill.”
If the AMA can’t squelch this grassroots rebellion, it might be less able, in the future, to claim to represent doctors in public policy debates. Physicians had already been concerned over increased government control of health care and the Medicare-like price setting of a new government plan. In fact, AMA leadership had been speaking out against such a public plan all year, while promoting ways to reform the insurance market and other less controversial measures. At its June House of Delegates meeting in Chicago, the doctors there had deliberately avoided endorsing one, while voting for a list of other principles.
The bill that passed through the House in July also notably offered no relief from malpractice lawsuits, the top priority of the doctors’ lobby for years. President Obama had promised to consider tort reform during a conciliatory speech at the same June meeting, though the bill has not turned out to have any. “We’re irate,” says Klemis, an AMA member.
The president made things worse by saying doctors choose to perform surgery on patients to make money when cheaper care would be better, citing tonsillectomies and foot amputations of diabetic patients as examples. The College of Surgeons, with 74,000 members, called Obama’s statement about taking out kids’ tonsils for money: “ill-informed and dangerous. We were dismayed at this characterization.” The Florida Medical Association, with 19,000 members, also sent an angry letter.
Historically, the AMA aggressively pushed back attempts to centralize the health care industry. It successfully opposed Harry Truman’s attempt to create a national health plan in 1948 and another attempt in 1962. Doctors made it clear, and the public seemed to agree, that they should not be government workers. The AMA tried again but failed to block Lyndon Johnson’s creation of Medicare in 1965, but then assumed its usual role, joining other interest groups to help foil HillaryCare in 1993.
This time around it’s different, the AMA says. It supports the House bill because it expands coverage to more people (33 million uninsured would be covered, according to Lewin) and forces insurance companies to take all comers, even those with preexisting conditions. The group also secured a promise–although one that’s not so secure that it’s included in the cost-scoring of the bill–that Medicare would start raising its reimbursement rates for physicians over the next 10 years. If it happens, it would mean $245 billion in increased Medicare doctor payments. “The status quo is unacceptable,” the group’s president, Dr. James Rohack, a Texas cardiologist, said at the time of the endorsement.
The move proved costly to the AMA. It unearthed longtime tensions with doctors who see $1 trillion being spent on health care but doubt it will trickle down to help their patients or make their practices more financially viable. Right now, Medicare pays an average of $54 for sometimes hour-long appointments, says John Slatosky, a family doctor in Randleman, N.C. To pay for the new public plan, he predicts, the government will have to cut benefits from Medicare. “The AMA has stomped on primary care doctors for years,” says Slatosky, who claims he’s had to borrow from a bank all year to keep afloat.
An online straw poll on the doctors-only Web site Sermo.com found that 94% of 10,500 physicians polled oppose the bill. While the sample isn’t scientific, and may have attracted an anti-AMA crowd, it’s gotten attention as a vote of confidence against the group. The head of Sermo, Daniel Palestrant, has been on an anti-AMA rampage all summer, appearing on cable news stations to say that doctors have been sold out. Doctors aren’t the reason why costs have risen or people can’t find insurance, he argues: “Overall health care spending has gone up while physician salaries have gone down.”
Palestrant accuses the AMA of being more concerned with keeping its seat at the White House table so it can protect its various ancillary moneymakers, like its estimated $75 million business licensing procedure codes to HMOs. (The AMA says Palestrant is upset because it ended a partnership deal with Sermo in May. Palestrant says he let the deal expire because the AMA doesn’t care about its members.)
Whatever may motivate Palestrant, the anti-AMA bandwagon has picked up speed. Seven state medical associations–including those in New Jersey, Texas and Georgia–took the highly unusual step of breaking with their parent to denounce the bill. Others big ones like Arkansas’ have also expressed deep skepticism, without specifically breaking with the AMA.
Several groups of specialty doctors–neurosurgeons, plastic surgeons and general surgeons–have joined the anti-ObamaCare coalition and have even been joined by two physicians who recently served as presidents of the AMA.
“The AMA,” says Gregory Tarasidis, a head and neck surgeon in Greenwood, S.C. who is currently president of his state medical association, “came out too early and too strong.”
News is breaking that another of Obamacare’s supporters PHARMA, might have other, more nefarious reasons for supporting the bill. Pamela at Atlas Shrugs has the story HERE