Obama Will Make His Case for Health-Care Reform Before AMA in Chicago

AMA president: "We don't think this is the best way."

ByABC News
June 14, 2009, 5:32 PM

WASHINGTON, June 14, 2009 — -- In a Chicago ballroom Monday, President Obama is about to face a popular, powerful and -- for now -- friendly audience.

American Medical Association (AMA) president Nancy Nielsen told ABC News the president will likely be greeted with cheers.

"We expect that he will get one big standing ovation as he comes in, and we expect that he will be warmly received and listened to very respectfully," she said.

But the going will get tougher. The nation's most influential doctors' organization has a serious problem with the president's health-care reform plan.

"We don't think this is the best way," Nielsen said.

Their main concern is Mr. Obama's proposal to create a government-run health plan to compete with private insurers and force them to keep prices low.

That disagreement is potentially daunting for any president seeking to reform the nation's health-care system. The AMA helped signal the doom of President Clinton's ambitious health reform plan when it turned against him in 1994. This time, the doctors group considers health-care reform nearly inevitable, and they want a seat at the drafting table. So they are choosing their words carefully.

"That doesn't mean we oppose," Nielsen said. "It means we would like to talk about perhaps other options."

What a difference a decade-and-a-half makes.

"The whole set of circumstances are different. We didn't have 46 million uninsured. We didn't have job losses like we have now," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today on ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos."

Many Republicans, on the other hand, aren't mincing their words.

"It would be terrible for hospitals, awful for doctors and ultimately it would be a disaster for the people in America," former presidential candidate and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said today on "This Week."

The Obama administration remains committed to a public option, Sebelius told ABC.

"That's a direction he thinks will be beneficial for the public and for -- to make sure that costs go down. And that's a central belief of his. This has to lower costs for everyone," Sebelius said. "In lots of places in the country, absent a public option, absent some kind of competitive option, people would have no choice."

President Obama made the same point last week, saying, "So don't let people scare you. If you like what you got, we're not going to make you change but in order to preserve what's best about our health-care system, we have to fix what doesn't work."

The momentum behind Obama's health reform effort has added fuel to a ferocious lobbying campaign over the proposal for a public health plan.