AMA reaffirms policy on health insurance mandates

Some physicians tried to get fellow delegates to change the Association's stance on that aspect of the health system reform law but fell short.

By Emily Berry — Posted June 20, 2011

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Delegates to the American Medical Association Annual Meeting voted on June 20 by a 2-1 ratio to reaffirm the AMA's support for "individual responsibility" to purchase health insurance, with tax credits and subsidies for those who cannot afford insurance.

The Association's House of Delegates rejected proposals to rescind the AMA's support for an individual mandate, which takes effect in 2014 as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Physicians who oppose the health reform law tried to convince colleagues that the AMA should change its position. Delegates from some state medical societies have blamed the Association's support for an individual mandate for a loss of membership in the AMA in their states.

AMA President Cecil B. Wilson, MD, said the AMA lost 1% to 2% more members in the last year than the previous year. But he said he did not believe that was due to the AMA's position on health system reform, noting that other physicians joined in response to the AMA's position.

After reference committee testimony a day earlier that lasted more than two hours, delegates took about a half hour to debate a proposed amendment that called for supporting states' freedom to decide whether to institute a mandate to buy coverage.

"I believe that each state, working with the population it has and the specific problems it has, can craft a solution that works better for that state than perhaps the one next door," said Michael Greene, MD, a delegate with the Medical Assn. of Georgia. Dr. Greene, a family physician from Macon who supported the amendment, spoke on the house floor during the June 20 debate.

The amendment was rejected.

The Council on Medical Service report that was adopted reaffirmed existing policy, which "advocates that state governments be given the freedom to develop and test different models for covering the uninsured."

Dr. Wilson said he believed the "overwhelming nature" of the decision to maintain support for a mandate would keep the matter from resurfacing.

"I would be surprised if this comes up again in the near future," he said.

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