Published June 25, 2011
The nation's largest doctors group this week formally called for the repeal of a key plank in the Democrats' health care overhaul -- a new board tasked with reining in the growth of Medicare.
The so-called Independent Payment Advisory Board was one of several "defects" in the law that representatives of the American Medical Association voted against at their annual meeting in Chicago.
The organization, which offered its qualified support for the health care overhaul before final passage last spring, named the Medicare board at the top of its list of "needed changes" in the law.
As early as 2015, the 15-member board is supposed to develop proposals for holding down Medicare costs if they exceed certain thresholds. The AMA in the past has complained that the board's work could lead to excessive payment cuts.
At the annual meeting, the AMA's House of Delegates also called for medical liability reform and other changes in the context of the health care law.
The Coalition to Protect Patients' Rights hailed the move, saying the board would "be given unprecedented power to cut billions of dollars from the Medicare program and has virtually no oversight."
But the AMA stopped far short of calling for a repeal of the health care law as a whole. In fact, the group reaffirmed its support for the law's controversial "individual mandate" requiring Americans to obtain health insurance.
"The AMA's policy supporting individual responsibility has bipartisan roots, helps Americans get the care they need when they need it and ends cost shifting from those who are uninsured to those who are insured," AMA President Cecil B. Wilson said in a statement.
The group also reaffirmed support for other key provisions in the law, including insurance market regulation and subsidies for high-risk patients.
As for the Medicare board, the Obama administration has argued it's necessary to keep health care spending under control.
In a speech last summer before the Brookings Institution, former White House budget director Peter Orszag said the law stresses quality over quantity of care, and that the Medicare board will ensure "that reforming the health care system is not a one-time event but an ongoing process with the goal of improving care and lowering costs over time."