AMA will still back individual mandate

The AMA's House of Delegates voted 326-165 to support the law's requirement that most people buy insurance. The coverage mandate is at the center of several lawsuits challenging the new law's constitutionality.

AMA President Cecil Wilson said the "overwhelming" vote shows that doctors still believe a mandate is necessary to achieving universal coverage.

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He emphasized that the AMA — the country's largest trade association for doctors — backed the individual mandate before the debate over healthcare reform. Many members of the traditionally conservative group wanted to see that position reassessed at the AMA's annual meeting this week in Chicago.

Delegates at the meeting voted down a proposal to let each state decide its own position on the mandate. Wilson said that position wouldn't be consistent with the AMA's stance is a necessary part of expanding coverage.

"We did not feel that having one state decide not to do that … was a fair way to go," he told reporters following the vote.

He also said he would be "surprised" if the AMA revisits the issue again next year, but that it also would be "unusual" for the organization to file a brief defending the mandate in court.