President Obama Pays House Call on AMA

By Caitlin Taylor

Jun 15, 2009 8:12am

Today President Obama will fly to Chicago where he will address a convention of the American Medical Association and argue, according to a White House official “why health care reform that brings down costs can’t wait another year or another administration.” He will support a health insurance exchange where “private plans compete with a public option that drives down costs and expands choice. The President will be clear about what a public option does and doesn’t mean for patients, physicians, and our broader health care system.”


President Obama will “reiterate the core promise and principle of the reform effort: that if you like the health care you have, you can keep it, and that his focus will be on fixing what’s broken and building on what works,” the official says.


Mr. Obama will argue that “we’re spending too much money on treatments that don’t make Americans any healthier, and that our system equates more expensive core with better care. He’ll lay out his vision for a system that replicates best practices, incentivizes excellence, and closes cost disparities — and he’ll ask for our medical professionals’ help in getting the job done.”

One agenda item the president will touch on, likely not enough for his audience, is malpractice reform. In his May 11 meeting with leaders of the health care industry, the incoming president the AMA, Dr. James Rohack, told President Obama that one of the reasons health care costs are so high is because doctors order unnecessary tests, referrals, and hospital stays because they’re practicing “defense medicine” and fearing malpractice lawsuits.


“What we asked the president is that if we as physicians are willing to tackle the issue of looking at variation of care and reducing unnecessary tests, we also have to have protection in the courtroom,” Rohack told ABC News after the meeting, that “if we didn’t order a test, that we subsequently aren’t going to get sued because we didn’t order that test that shouldn’t have been done in the first place.”


So for example, not everyone who comes into the emergency room complaining about a headache would automatically get an MRI, Rohack said.


But what about the idea that these measures to save money could cost more lives?


That some people’s lives might be saved because of that MRI?


“I think we need to highlight that life is a matter of risk,” Dr. Rohack, a cardiologist, responded. “We know that 24 percent of Americans purchase tobacco products and use them every day knowing there’s a well documented risk of heart disease as well as cancer so life is a decision of choice. We have people who drink alcohol and get behind the wheel of a car and create a burden on our current American economy with trauma funds because of some of them being uninsured and still our government has said that any one who shows up to the emergency room, regardless of their ability to pay, the health care system has to take care of them.”


You can listen to our whole interview with Rohack from our ABC News Shuffle podcast interview HERE.


- jpt

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