Saying that it doesnt make a lot of sense to pay attention to what John McCain and Barack Obama are now saying about healthcare because talk is cheap on the campaign trail, American Medical Association President Nancy Nielsen told members of the Chicago Association for Business Economics that Americans are absolutely ready for a healthcare revolution and touted the AMA plan for lowering the number of uninsured.
It really isnt clear what either of them would do for Joe the Plumber, said Nielsen during a luncheon held at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, adding that it will be more beneficial to listen to what McCain or Obama say in January rather than October.
The AMA plan calls for cashin the form of vouchersfor people to buy coverage that is both affordable and of their own choosing with regulations that maintain fairness and protect high-risk patients.
Nielsen, a Buffalo, N.Y.-based internist, stressed that while the AMA is calling for an end to Americas uninsured crisis, That is not a call for a single-payer system.
We dont think Americans would tolerate it and the polls bear us out, she said.
Nielsen listed other healthcare needs, including ending the reliance on Medicaid dollars to fund long-term care and having Americans take more responsibility for their own health and, she said, this has to be done without blaming the individual or being judgmental.
After a long recitation of what is wrong with the U.S. healthcare system, Nielsen cited an Annals of Internal Medicine report that indicated in 2004 the U.S. ranked fourthbehind France, the Netherlands and the Czech Republicin the percentage of healthcare costs paid out of pocket. While the French paid 7.6% of their healthcare costs out of pocket, Americans paid 13.2%, which was ahead of Germany, 13.3%; Austria, 13.3%; and Canada, 14.7%.
That actually is a surprise, she said.
Nielsen closed her presentation with a warning that, if universal healthcare coverage is achieved, the U.S. may not have enough primary-care physicians to meet the demand. During a question-and-answer session, she replied that it was preposterous to think that AMA policy has encouraged a shortage of physicians and that the organization is an adversary of other healthcare providers who have become known as physician extenders.
We really value nurse practitioners and physician assistants, Nielsen said. There is plenty of work to go around. -- by Andis Robeznieks