American Medical Association president warns against 'one-size-fits-all' single-payer system

American Medical Association president warns against 'one-size-fits-all' single-payer system
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The president of the American Medical Association (AMA) criticized "Medicare for All" as a “one-size-fits-all solution” on Wednesday, but acknowledged that some doctors, particularly younger ones, support the idea. 

“We just don't think a one-size-fits-all solution works,” Dr. Patrice Harris told The Hill when asked about a Medicare for All, single-payer system. 

“And so, we believe that there should be choice for patient, choice for physician, and there should be a plurality of available options, but absolutely having a strong safety net,” she added in the interview at the group’s national advocacy conference in Washington.  

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The House of Delegates of the AMA, the nation’s leading doctors group, narrowly voted down a measure to drop the organization’s decades-long opposition to a single-payer system last year, by a vote of 53 percent to 47 percent. 

But attitudes among doctors could be changing. Asked if younger doctors are more open to single-payer, Harris said, “I’ve seen that, I’ve witnessed that.”

“I think there are folks of all, you know, age ranges and specialties that might support that,” she added. “But again, that's the beauty of the AMA and our democratic process and our value of diverse thoughts and opinions.”

The American College of Physicians, the second-largest doctors group after the AMA, made waves in January when it endorsed single-payer health insurance, as well as a public option, as ways to achieve universal coverage. 

The rest of the health care industry, including hospitals, drug companies and insurance companies, remains strongly opposed to single-payer, though. 

Many doctors worry that the payment rates under Medicare for All would be insufficient, given that Medicare currently pays lower rates than private insurance does. 

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A more immediate issue facing doctors is legislation currently moving through Congress to protect patients against getting massive “surprise” medical bills when a doctor is out of the insurance network. 

Harris reiterated the group’s position that legislation should include an arbitration process to allow doctors to work out their payments with insurers once the patient is taken out of the middle. Doctors have warned that a rival approach to setting the payment rate, favored by unions and consumer groups, could lead to damaging cuts to their payments. 

She and scores of other doctors attending the conference this week have been on Capitol Hill making their views known on the issue. 

“Certainly, I will be meeting with a couple of folks this afternoon,” she said. “But as you know, almost all of the attendees here have been meeting with their own legislators in the last three days.”