The American Medical Association has proven again that the greed of the medical insurance complex is the chief obstacle to health care reform in America.
The most established mouthpiece for American doctors weighed in against the pivotal plank of Obamacare -- a public alternative to the private health insurance market. The stated reason for the doctors' opposition was fear that the public health care system would displace private insurers, and doctors would have to take a pay cut. But the AMA has been pretty hard on private insurers over the years, filing reams of class action lawsuits. The real reason for the AMA's opposition appears even more cynical and myopic.
With President Obama scheduled to speak to the group Monday, the AMA seems to be holding its support for health reform hostage until Obama embraces the interest group's sacred cow -- draconian limits on patients injured by medical malpractice. For decades the doctors' lobby has fought to impose stiff limits on how much juries could give to injured patients in medical negligence cases.
State damage caps, such as California's cruel and draconian 30 year old limits, have locked injured patients out of court, degraded the quality of health care and denied justice to too many families. President Bush could never foist the AMA's wish list on even the Republican Congress so now the AMA is taking aim at Obama, who is anxious to enact health reform.
The evidence of how limits on victims of medical negligence have harmed patients has been well established. The JusticeForPatients.org site has a video monument to the stories of injured patients denied justice under California's draconian medical malpractice laws. Consumer Watchdog has shown that malpractice damage caps do not even limit doctors' malpractice premiums, only insurance regulation does that. The Los Angeles Times also published a large investigation demonstrating how injured patients have been locked out of the justice system in California due to malpractice caps in the state.
President Obama should let the AMA know Monday that he won't allow the trade association to hold a gun to the head of health care reform just so dangerous doctors can avoid legal accountability. Better yet, he should cancel his speech and let it be known on Capitol Hill that he believes regulating how much doctors and insurers can charge is exactly the cost control needed in health care reform.
Greed, waste, fraud are the big cost drivers in health care. A small minority of bad doctors drive waste and fraud just like only a small percentage of dangerous doctors commit most of the malpractice. If the AMA really wants to protect these bad apples, it needs to know the government intends to watch and regulate the profession even more closely. More accountability needs to be the response to the AMA's selfish attack, not capitulation.