Reflections from the AMA: President Obama’s Speech

The following is part of a series of original guest columns by the American Medical Association.

by J. James Rohack, M.D.

We have a historic opportunity for health reform this year and the AMA was delighted to welcome President Obama to our Annual Meeting in Chicago earlier this week. Like the President, we are committed to health-care reform that will provide all Americans with affordable, high-quality health coverage.

I was personally honored to share the stage with President Obama, and from the applause and the energy in the room, I can tell that I was not alone in feeling optimistic that we will achieve health reform this year.

To a round of applause, President Obama acknowledged the important role of the AMA when he said “I need your help doctors. To most Americans, you are the health-care system…I will listen to you and work with you to pursue reform that works for you.” The next day at the meeting, the AMA voted to support health-system reform alternatives that are consistent with our principles of pluralism, freedom of choice, freedom of practice, and universal access for patients.

President Obama recognized in his speech that medical liability reforms are needed to reduce rising health-care costs. Until physicians no longer fear lawsuits if they don’t order every test to rule out every possible condition defensive medicine will continue. Liability reform should be part of health reform to help physicians implement best practices in patient care, and to reduce unnecessary health costs.

The President recognized the need to fix the flawed Medicare physician payment formula once and for all. Physicians must have confidence that Medicare payments will be stable and the cover the cost of patient care. This is fundamental to achieving new ways of delivering patient-centered care that focuses on care coordination and disease management.

The President got a standing ovation when he spoke about physicians’ commitment to our patients. He said that the health care system should let us be healers. I couldn’t agree more.

Today, the White House released a statement saying that “the AMA agrees with the President that enacting reform that drives down costs and expands choice and coverage is an urgent priority. We look forward to working with them as the process moves forward.”

This is a landmark opportunity for health reform, and the AMA will stay constructively engaged to ensure that we achieve meaningful reform that includes coverage for all Americans, and meets the need of patients and the physicians who care for them.

J. James Rohack is President of the American Medical Association.