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AMA Backs House Health Care Bill, Health Insurers Concerned

Updated: 3:29 p.m.

The massive doctors’ group the American Medical Association on Thursday came out in support of the House health care reform bill.

The AMA’s move comes despite the fact that the legislation includes a public plan option, something many medical doctors don’t like.

A few hours later, America’s Health Insurance Plans, the lobbying group for the health insurance industry, sent an eight-page letter to key Members expressing its concerns over the House bill, specifically noting its opposition to the public plan option.

In the letter, AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni made clear that her industry does not support a public plan.

“We strongly oppose the creation of a new government-run health insurance plan,— she wrote in the letter to the chairmen of the three committees with jurisdiction over the bill (Education and Labor, Ways and Means, and Energy and Commerce).

Ignagni wrote that while her organization remained supportive of comprehensive health care reform, the bill would “cause millions of patients to lose their current coverage, dismantle the employer based health care system, put at risk hospitals nationwide and exacerbate the nation’s long-term fiscal crisis.—

AHIP also strongly opposes the House bill’s cuts to Medicare Advantage, a program administered by private insurers that helps fill gaps in Medicare coverage.

AHIP’s letter follows by one day a series of separate letters from business groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Federation of Independent Business, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which also strongly criticized the legislation.

The AMA, in its Thursday letter, told House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) that the group supports H.R. 3200, America’s Affordable Health Choices Act.

“I am writing to express our appreciation and support,— said AMA Executive Vice President Michael Maves in the letter, which has 11 bullet points highlighting areas of the bill that the AMA finds particularly to its liking.

The letter does not mention support for the bill’s public plan option but does note that the AMA looks forward to “further constructive dialogue during the committee mark-up process,— a point at which any public plan option could be significantly altered — or removed.

The bullet points include the promise to extend coverage to all Americans through health insurance market reforms; plans to provide consumers with a choice of plans through a health insurance exchange; the encouragement of chronic disease management; and the addressing of physician workforce concerns.

“We pledge to work with the House committees and leadership to build support for passage of health reform legislation to expand access to high quality, affordable health care for all Americans,— the letter added.