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American Medical Association opposes ‘Medicare for All.’ Students, nurses and activists want to change that

Posted at 7:48 AM, Jun 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-08 09:48:39-04

The American Medical Association is coming under increasing fire for opposing “Medicare for All.”

Energized by the growing attention on universal health care in the 2020 presidential campaign and in Congress, medical students, nurses and other activists are expected to rally Saturday at the AMA’s annual meeting in Chicago to urge its leadership to change its position.

Nearly two dozen groups — including those representing doctors, nurses, medical students and other health care workers — are participating in the campaign, organizers say.

The influential association has long opposed a government-run health care system, such as the Medicare for All proposal championed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent running for the Democratic presidential nomination. It is also a member of the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, a coalition of health industry groups seeking to quash any momentum behind Medicare for All.

The rally comes as the AMA doubles down on its opposition to universal health care. After being pressed to review its position by its medical students caucus at last year’s meeting, the association recently reaffirmed its commitment to strengthening the Affordable Care Act and making coverage more affordable, in part by increasing the eligibility and amount of federal subsidies for premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.

“Instead of abandoning the ACA and threatening the stability of coverage for those individuals who are generally satisfied with their coverage, the council believes that now is the time to invest not only in fixing the law, but improving it,” the AMA said in a report issued last month.

The association backs the idea that every American deserves quality, affordable health care insurance and that the current situation for patients is “unacceptable,” AMA President Barbara McAneny said in a statement Friday.

Still, the report recommended that the group not support single payer proposals. Among the concerns: a cut in reimbursement rates that could affect the number of doctors willing to participate.

Supporters of universal health care, however, want the AMA to “get out of the way,” said Marti Smith, a Midwest director of National Nurses United, one of the leading advocacy groups backing Medicare for All. The association is focused more on the industry than its patients, she charged.

The next generation of doctors has been particularly vocal in its support for universal health care.

Amanda Snead, who is finishing her first year at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s medical school, said the experience has been eye opening. She’s heard from people who couldn’t leave marriages or jobs because they needed to keep their health insurance.

AMA’s stance is why Snead has joined the Students for a National Health Program, which advocates for a single-payer plan, instead of the association. She’s concerned the current system will interfere with her ability to practice medicine.

“A lot of insurers take the autonomy out of physicians’ hands,” she said. “I want to be able to make the best medical decisions for my patients.”