AMA House of Delegates

Medicare financing options to be revisited in November

The AMA votes to refine supported alternatives, which could include backing a set coverage amount for seniors to purchase Medicare or private insurance.

By Charles Fiegl amednews staff — Posted July 2, 2012

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The American Medical Association will work to update its policy on Medicare financing options and report back to the House of Delegates at its Interim Meeting in November.

Delegates attending the Annual Meeting voted to explore additional ways to finance Medicare, including a defined contribution program that would allow seniors to purchase traditional Medicare coverage or private health insurance using a set amount of money. “Our AMA should consider mechanisms to adjust contributions in order to ensure that health insurance coverage remains affordable for all beneficiaries,” says the policy adopted by the house.

The Louisiana delegation had submitted a resolution in favor of a premium support model, which calls for Medicare beneficiaries to receive federal credits toward the purchase of traditional Medicare or a private health plan approved by the Dept. of Health and Human Services. The resolution had been based on a Council on Medical Service report that the panel withdrew before the Annual Meeting.

The health care entitlement for seniors must be reformed because of long-term fiscal challenges, said Frederick J. White III, MD, a cardiovascular disease specialist in Shreveport, La., and an alternate delegate for the Louisiana State Medical Society. “We offer this resolution to bring bold changes before us.”

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Dr. Fasules Photo by Peter Barreras / AP Images for American Medical News

Some delegates had objected to the premium support resolution during committee debate on June 17. The proposal would fracture the patient pool and lead to “cherry-picking” of healthier patients by private insurers, while unhealthy patients would struggle to obtain coverage, said Washington pediatric cardiologist James W. Fasules, MD, an alternate delegate for the American College of Cardiology, speaking for himself. “You think this is going to help with physician payment, by fixing a premium for insurance that is less than the cost and patients aren’t going to be able pay for it?”

The reference committee instead offered a substitute to the Louisiana delegation’s resolution. It recommended that the AMA refine its policy on financing options and report back to delegates later in 2012.

Everyone sees a crisis in Medicare financing, said Beverly, Mass., cardiovascular disease specialist Thomas E. Sullivan, MD, who is chair of the Council on Medical Service and a delegate for the Massachusetts Medical Society. The panel said it wanted to spend more time to address the issues raised by a defined-contribution system.

“I do not want policy that is incomplete and insufficient,” said Dr. Sullivan, speaking on his own behalf.

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