In a significant shift, a recent American Medical Association (AMA) national annual meeting vote was just 3% short of supporting Medicare for All. This key medical provider group had long been overwhelmingly opposed to greater government control of healthcare, the basic premise of a single payer system, and has been considered a major obstacle to its successful passage.
For the upcoming presidential election, the AMA has thrown its support in favor of Joe Biden, the leading Democratic presidential candidate who, unlike most other democratic hopefuls, has not put single payer as a priority in his campaign. However, the vote signals that the physicians’ solidarity is weakening.
Speculating on why this shift has occurred, some industry observers say that doctors are tired of the heavy-handed management of the health insurance companies with complex restrictions, narrowing networks and changing policy terms to restrict non-network care access. In addition, government oversight like limits on surprise billing are making it even more restrictive on physicians. The landscape of doctors entering medicine is changing, becoming younger and more progressive and the alternative of government control may begin to look like an easier choice.
In its narrow vote, AMA members have supported: Improving Affordable Care Act (ACA) programs, expanding ACA premium and cost-sharing subsidies, and studying the “public option” which allows individuals and small business to buy into the government-provided systems. As I have written in this blog, the public option may seem benign, but I view it as a meaningful step toward a major restructuring of U.S. healthcare delivery. The battle lines are blurring as are the traditional alignments.