Following the lead of other healthcare organizations, the American Medical Association and six of the largest physician specialty groups last week called for politicians to put universal health coverage at the top of their agendas.
The physician groups stole a page from the Catholic Health Association's playbook, saying that they wanted to put the issue on the table without tying themselves to a specific proposal.
"We're calling for the beginning of a process of deliberation and examination (of the uninsured problem)," said Robert Graham, M.D., executive vice president at the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Two months ago, the CHA took an identical approach to the issue when the Rev. Michael Place, the CHA's president and chief executive officer, extended to all interested parties "an invitation to begin a conversation" about the uninsured (April 26, p. 9).
The physician groups also copied the CHA's appeal to the 11 presidential candidates, faxing letters asking them to tell the public how they planned to provide coverage to the 43 million Americans without health insurance.
"We challenge the presidential candidates to have this issue in their top- three priorities," said Nancy Dickey, M.D., the AMA's president.
The CHA in May sent letters to the presidential candidates asking them to sign a pledge to work toward accessible and affordable healthcare for all Americans if elected.
Last week, Rep. John Kasich (R-Ohio) became the first to sign the CHA's pledge.
"It is a difficult, complicated issue and one that requires a little bit of guts to talk about," Kasich said.
At deadline, CHA executives were unavailable for comment.
The CHA certainly doesn't own the issue, however, as several healthcare lobbies seeking financial and regulatory relief from Congress have grasped access to care as their high-road issue (May 31, p. 3).
The AMA beat the CHA to the punch last December when it declared itself the "national champion" of universal access (Dec. 14, 1998, p. 20).
The AMA then formed a work group to develop a position with the AAFP; the American College of Surgeons; the American Academy of Pediatrics; the American College of Emergency Physicians; the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; and the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine.
Before that, the American Hospital Association launched an ambitious plan to get the uninsured enrolled in existing government health programs. More recently, three major insurance associations have offered proposals on what to do about the uninsured.