Lori Heim, M.D., who was with the delegation from the American Academy of Family Physicians and is the new president of the organization, said healthcare reform issues took up some eight hours of committee testimony and three hours of debate with the entire House of Delegates.
“It was a very civil discussion,” said Heim, a hospitalist with Scotland Memorial Hospital in Laurinburg, N.C., and a retired U.S. Air Force colonel. “It didn't degenerate into personal issues even though there were passionate views on this topic.”
Heim acknowledged that there were some components of the resolution that the AAFP delegation was “less than thrilled with,” but added that “we understand the wording was a compromise that conveyed the differences among the various medical specialties.”
Although there was a feeling among some delegates that the AMA leadership should have waited until the meeting convened before announcing its support of the bill the House of Representatives passed Nov. 7, Heim said AMA President J. James Rohack, M.D., and the board did the right thing because “you can't sit on your hands and expect to influence policy.”
She added that the route taken by the AMA—announcing its support for the bill while working to improve it—reflected how the AMA has “progressed and matured politically” over the days when it was known mostly for being fierce opponents to reform.
“The AMA did oppose Medicare in 1965, how did that work out?” Heim said. “You figure out that the tactics you took in the past didn't advance your objectives.”
Rohack noted the significance of the meeting's proceedings. “Now is a defining moment in the history of the AMA,” Rohack said in a news release. “In a democratic process, the AMA House of Delegates today voted to continue AMA's commitment to health system reform for patients and physicians. … H.R. 3962 is not the perfect bill, and we will continue to advocate for changes that help make the system better for patients and physicians as the legislative process continues.”
The Medical Association of Georgia joined with other organizations to introduce a resolution rescinding the AMA's support of the Affordable Health Care for America Act. In a statement posted on its Web site, the group said it was “disappointed that the motions calling for the AMA to oppose a public health insurance option and to withdraw its support for H.R. 3692 failed. MAG will continue to promote what it believes is in the best interest of patients and the profession of medicine—a patient-physician relationship that is free of interference from the government or third-party payers.”
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