The predictable AMA

THE PREDICTABLE AMA…. President Obama is scheduled to speak to the American Medical Association on Monday, but the group decided to preempt his remarks by making one thing perfectly clear: no matter what, the AMA opposes a public option as part of a reform effort.

True to form, the AMA stated yesterday that health coverage should be “provided through private markets, as they are currently.” The group added that private insurers — which, one might assume, would not be the AMA’s top priority — would likely be “driv[en] out” of the system if a public option exists.

Kevin Drum’s response got to the heart of the issue.

(1) A public plan wouldn’t drive out private insurers unless it turns out that private insurers are actually less efficient than the post office. In which case they’d deserve it. (2) Nor would a public plan restrict choice — unless the AMA’s members deliberately tried to sabotage it by refusing to participate. (3) And there would only be a surge in signups if the public plan turned out to be a better deal, which would likely mean lower overall costs even if a greater percentage of those costs was paid for out of taxes.

But who cares? Honestly, if the graybeards of the AMA didn’t oppose a public plan it would probably make me rethink my support for it. The fact that they are opposing it just means that all is right with the world.

Indeed, the AMA’s track record is consistent — which is to say, consistently awful — on reform efforts. As Sam Stein explained, “Historically and philosophically … AMA’s opposition is hardly newsworthy. Despite a lofty reputation and purported commitment to universal coverage, AMA has fought almost every major effort at health care reform of the past 70 years.”

It was the AMA that helped block Franklin Roosevelt’s administration from including health care reform in the Social Security package. It was the AMA that undermined Truman’s reform effort. It was the AMA that blasted Medicare as a step towards totalitarianism. It was the AMA that came up with “socialized medicine” as a catch-all attack to describe any government intervention in the health care system.

And now the group is outraged by the notion of a public option? You don’t say.