Thursday, July 02, 2009

Has hell frozen over? (AMA is now open to public health insurance option.)

trees and sky over MarylandDidn't think I'd ever see a headline saying that the American Medical Association, which has been obstructing Americans' opportunities to obtain universal health coverage since before 1948, is now open to the idea of a government-funded health insurance option. Perhaps the fact that not only is much of the public in favor of such an option is one reason for the turnaround. Another may be that most physicians are not AMA members (surprising), and many feel like Harold J. Fallon, M.D., who perceptively notes that "Universal coverage a must for effective health-care reform."

The only problem seems that many seem to want to put the health care cart before the horse--worrying about the costs of covering everyone beforehand--instead of worrying about the present costs of NOT covering everyone, which creates some of the tragedies that America is now grappling with--from emergency rooms overflowing with patients who don't have consistent access to medical care (a situation that's a public health crisis in its own right), to millions of Americans being underinsured.

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More good news is that the Senate committee working on health care reform, HELP, the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, has retained the public option in its bill. Senators Kennedy and Dodd maintain that their bill will "dramatically reduce the number of uninsured_fully 97 percent of Americans will have coverage, a major achievement."(Associated Press via the Huffington Post.) A major achievement, indeed. Let's hope that Democrats maintain a spine and press for the public option, as opposed to some weak "cooperatives" bill.

The only real question is, who are the three percent who will remain uncovered by the HELP legislation?

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