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Dr. Ardis Hoven is president-elect 
of the American Medical Association.
Dr. Ardis Hoven is president-elect of the American Medical Association.

Prevention prevails

Widespread routine care will help minimize severity of illness and costs


By Dr. Ardis Hoven
Posted: June 30, 2012 - 12:01 am ET
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The U.S. Supreme Court's historic decision to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act protects the expansion of healthcare insurance to the uninsured and preserves important healthcare improvements that will benefit countless Americans. The law ends insurance company denials because of pre-existing conditions, eliminates lifetime caps on insurance and allows millions of young adults to stay on their parents' health insurance policies until age 26. The law's expanded healthcare coverage will also help patients obtain preventive care to help avert unnecessary disease and the expensive healthcare interventions that often accompany it.

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The American Medical Association supported the ACA because the bill reflects key priorities set by the AMA's House of Delegates, which is composed of physician members from all states and virtually all medical specialties. The AMA has a long-held policy, set and reinforced by our House of Delegates, in favor of covering the uninsured so all Americans can get the care they need when they need it and lead healthier lives.

Compared with their neighbors who have health coverage, the 50 million uninsured Americans live sicker and die younger. Uninsured patients often put off preventive care—the type of routine physician visits that keep conditions from escalating in severity and treatment cost. The cost of providing care to the uninsured is passed along to those who have insurance, adding about $1,000 annually to a family's premium. The AMA has had policy supporting individual responsibility since 2006, before the current health reform debate began—policy that was reaffirmed in 2010 and 2011.

With its decision, the Supreme Court has enabled the uninsured to access the coverage they need to help avoid a host of unnecessary consequences. Physicians have a strong interest in making sure all patients have access to care so we can help them lead healthier lives.

This ruling marks a significant step forward as we continue to improve our healthcare system so it works better for patients and physicians. The Affordable Care Act makes important progress, but there is more work to be done. There are still provisions of the law that need to be refined; for example, we support eliminating the Independent Payment Advisory Board. There also are flaws in the system that predate the ACA and have to be addressed, such as the broken Medicare physician payment formula and medical liability system.

As the nation's largest physician organization, the AMA will continue to work with Congress and the administration during the implementation phase of the law to ensure the best outcomes for patients and physicians and to resolve problems not addressed by the law.


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