Obama Offers His Health Care Rx to Doctors

Tells AMA current system is a "time bomb"

President Obama, continuing to barnstorm for his health care proposals, urged doctors gathered in Chicago to support wider insurance coverage and targeted federal spending cuts, and indicated he would be willing to back limits on malpractice lawsuits.

Obama told the American Medical Association's annual meeting in his hometown on Monday that his overhaul, which could cost an estimated $1 trillion over the next decade, cannot wait because millions go without care under a systme he called a "time bomb."

"If we do not fix our health care system, America may go the way of GM, paying more, getting less and going broke," Obama warned.

The President told the gathering of doctors that the current system features unsustainable costs for doctors, skyrocketing premiums for small business and a tattered safety net that leaves millions without care.

"I'd love to be able to defer these issues, but we can't," Obama said.

Obama said savings and efficiency can be achieved by upgrading the system for tracking medical records.

The President insisted his reforms will not add to the deficit and said none of his reforms would change policies  for people who are insured through their employer and are happy with their coverage.

"If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period," Obama said. "If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan."

The nation's doctors, like many other groups, are divided over the president's proposals to reshape the health care delivery system. The White House anticipates heavy spending to cover the almost 50 million Americans who lack health insurance and has taken steps in recent days to outline just where that money could be found.

Obama wants to cut federal payments to hospitals by about $200 billion and cut $313 billion from Medicare and Medicaid. He also is proposing a $635 billion "down payment" in tax increases, which he said would be targeted at the wealthy, and spending cuts in the health care system.

Obama's turn before the 250,000-physician group was his latest effort to persuade skeptics that his goal to provide health care to all Americans is worth the price tag. Unified Republicans and some fiscally conservative Democrats on Capitol Hill have said they are nervous about how the administration plans to pay for Obama's ideas.

The New York Times reported Monday that Obama has been quietly making a case for reducing malpractice lawsuits to help control costs, long a goal of the AMA and Republicans. Obama has not endorsed capping jury awards

Obama has been speaking privately with lawmakers about his ideas and publicly with audiences, such as a town hall style meeting last week in Green Bay, Wis. Obama and his administration officials have blanketed the nation in support of his broad ideas, and Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday said it's up to Congress to pin down the details on how to pay for them.

Obama's proposed cuts in federal payments would hit hospitals more directly than doctors, but physicians will be affected by virtually every change that Congress eventually agrees to. Many medical professionals are not yet convinced Obama's overhaul is the best for their care or their pocketbooks.

Many congressional Republicans, insurance groups and others oppose Obama's bid for a government-run health insurance program that would compete with private companies. On Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., described a government plan as a "nonstarter."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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