AN AMA CHANGE OF HEART? NOT REALLY…. A few weeks ago, the American Medical Association said it’s open to exploring reform options, just so long a public option is not part of the larger effort. This didn’t come as a surprise — the AMA has “fought almost every major effort at health care reform of the past 70 years.”

It’s why it raised a few eyebrows yesterday when the incoming president of the AMA, in an interview with CNN, seemed to be staking out a new position. CNN ran an item on the segment with a headline that read, “AMA president: group open to government-funded healthcare.”

Dr. J. James Rohack told CNN that the AMA supports an “American model” that includes both “a private system and a public system, working together.” […]

Rohack, who recently became AMA president, suggested Wednesday that the Federal Employee Health Benefit Program available to Congress members and other federal employees could be expanded as a public option. That would avoid having to create a new program from scratch, he said.

“If it’s good enough for Congress, why shouldn’t it be good enough for individuals who don’t have health insurance provided by their employers?” Rohack said.

The AMA president went on to express support for universal coverage and new efficiency measures such as electronic record-keeping. Rohack called 2009 “the year we need to have affordable health insurance coverage for all Americans.”

But it was that reference to a “public system” that stood out. Is the AMA shifting its position?

Not really. Brian Beutler explained that Rohack is actually endorsing “a system of managed competition that provides members of Congress and other federal employees a choice of heavily regulated private insurance plans. In the FEHBP, the government is not the insurance provider as it would be in the case of a public option — and that’s a substantial difference.”

Advocates of real reform are going to need plenty of allies. Don’t expect the AMA to be one of them.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.