- The American Medical Association voted to reaffirm its opposition to a single-payer healthcare system at its annual meeting in Chicago this week, but by a relatively narrow tally of 53% in favor of opposition and 47% voting to abandon the position AMA has held for decades.
- American College of Physicians SVP for Public Policy Bob Doherty said on Twitter this outcome "would have been unimaginable in years past," pointing to the large contingent backing single-payer or other public options.
- Other proposals AMA adopted encourage a focus on vulnerable patients in alternative payment models, more scrutiny on pharmacy benefit managers' role in the drug supply chain and tweaks to the Affordable Care Act such as boosting premium tax credits and expanding eligibility and increasing size of cost-sharing reductions.
AMA cast its policy votes as reaffirmation of the ACA and its coverage expansion efforts, but expressed concerns that Medicare for All would significantly increase federal spending.
But the idea is catching on in some circles, particularly Democratic presidential hopefuls. At a hearing Wednesday on pathways to universal health coverage, former CMS Administrator Don Berwick testified in support of Medicare for All. In prepared remarks, he said such a system was ambitious but achievable.
"Medicare for All is not an end in itself. It is a means to achieve what we care about: better care, better health, lower cost, and leaving no one out," he said. "I am open to considering any proposal that moves our nation fast and well toward those goals. Compared with Medicare for All, I see none better."
AMA has more than 200,000 members and is a powerful lobby in Washington. The group spent more than $20 million on lobbying last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Many providers have generally voiced opposition to a Medicare for All system, pushing lawmakers to oppose such proposals and ramping up efforts since the latter half of 2018.
AMA belongs to the Partnership for America's Health Care Future, which formed in June and reportedly aims to remove single-payer from Democrats' 2020 platforms.
Providers certainly haven't been the only sector to weigh in on single-payer. Multiple payer CEOs broached the topic with investors on first quarter earnings calls, but their invectives against the policy sent stocks into a nosedive.
In other business, the physician group inaugurated its 174th president: Patrice Harris, an Atlanta psychiatrist who is the first African American woman to lead the organization. The president-elect is Susan Bailey, an allergist and immunologist from Fort Worth, Texas.