Earlier today, the American Medical Association (AMA) released a letter that Politico describes as an endorsement of “Obama-style health reform.” Adding that the White House is sure to use this letter to “undermine the GOP response.” Based on that description, the AMA must have really come out strong in favor of Obamacare, right? Wrong.
The Open Letter to the President from AMA President J. James Rohack MD reminds us of the long-running sitcom Seinfeld, because it is a letter about nothing. It offers no specifics, offers no endorsement and mostly offers rhetoric all sides completely agree with. In honor of football’s return this week, let’s break the letter down John Madden-style:
The Coin Flip: They remind the President he has a historic opportunity and urges him to seek an agreement on reform that includes “critical elements.” So far, a very cordial introduction. This is the obligatory handshake before the game and everyone is smiling.
“Provide Health Insurance Coverage for All Americans”: On the ensuing kickoff, everyone goes to the kitchen to grab snacks because everyone in America has already agreed that the goal is to get more U.S. citizens insured. This team has no opponents.
“Enact insurance market reforms that expand choice of affordable coverage and eliminate denials for pre-existing conditions”: On the opening drive, the AMA fumbles. They are asking the President and lawmakers to expand “choice”, except the President’s current plan only limits it. In fact, under his current plan, millions of Americans would have no choice but to be knocked out of their current private coverage and forced into a government-run plan. That certainly does not represent an expansion of “choice.”
“Assure that health care decisions are made by patients and their physicians, not by insurance companies or government officials”: Conservatives score. This line clearly demonstrates that the AMA is NOT endorsing the President’s plan, since his plan is fundamentally built around government officials making health care decisions. And what is the easiest way to achieve the goal of less government intervention? Pretty easy. Don’t create a government-run health care system to start with. Period. This play was definitely not designed to show support for President Obama’s plan.
Incentives, reforms, streamlining: The AMA does not advance the ball here. They use vague language to say that reform of the current health care system is necessary, costs must be reduced and administrative burdens should be eliminated. We agree. Does the AMA believe that adding a government bureaucracy will reduce costs or eliminate administrative burdens? Has any government program ever achieved this benchmark? No.
“The [AMA] and our individual members are working hard to improve health care delivery…”: The AMA misses the trade deadline, not noticing that many of their members are vocally opposing President Obama’s health care plans. As Forbes magazine put it best: “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.”
“We reaffirm our commitment to work with each of you…”: And the game is over. The AMA said nothing. They did not endorse Obamacare, nor did they promote the general principles which are rooted in Obamacare.
Medical practitioners and members of the AMA must be upset today, because Dr. Rohack sent them into the game without a cohesive strategy for success and without representing the interests of his membership. Rohack merely offered a laundry list of vague pleasantries. President Obama will undoubtedly brag of this “endorsement,” but what did they actually endorse? Nothing.