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Health Insurance Tops Obama's Agenda


President Obama will be seeking approval from doctors today as he seeks health insurance reform. Last week the American Medical Association (AMA) released a much publicized criticism of the President's plans. Obama and other top Democrats have insisted the government creating affordable health insurance is important to the fiscal health of the U.S.

Obama's task will be a daunting one. Doctors, many of whom with decades of schooling and training, are not looking for a bureaucrat in Washington to make medical decisions for their patients. Some are worried that if the government controls health insurance then they will wield total power over the health care industry as a whole.

The initial versions of Democrats' reform bills focus heavily on changes in the health insurance industry. Obama and others claim a government-run public option is needed to create "real" competition with and among private insurers. These private companies are warning such a plan would drive their rates higher when current clients leave for the cheaper government rates. The government-run option, it is feared, will be able to set prices at any level it desires since it will not go bankrupt and thus has no incentive for profit margins.

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President Obama will address the AMA, a group representing some 250,000 physicians nationwide, today in Chicago. This is another step in the President's attempt to sale his plan for health insurance and health care reform, a plan with a cost some estimates put at $1 trillion. The Obama administration claims savings to Medicare from reform will pay for the plan, a claim the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office adamantly disagrees with, saying there is no way to proof the current White House numbers.

Obama has criticized Republican lawmakers for declaring they won't support any plan with a public option. With regards to competition, there are currently more than 1,000 health insurance companies from which consumers can choose from. The White House is not discussing the number of so-called "Blue-dog" Democrats also opposed to a government-run public option.

Numbers from the Census Bureau also do not help the Obama administration's attempt to sale a public option plan. Of the some 47 million "Americans" without health insurance, 17 million of those are illegal aliens. Furthermore, an estimated 17 million of those falling into the uninsured category make $50,000 or more annually. The more widely these numbers become known the more difficult passing a public option plan will become.

What comes of the President's attempt to sale a plan for affordable health insurance to the AMA will be interesting to watch. That's not to say the White House won't move forward with such a plan even without the AMA's support. However, selling a health insurance plan and health care reform efforts to the public without the nation's largest physician group's support will test Democrats' popularity.