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Obama calls on doctors at AMA meeting to set aside fears and support health reform

obama health care amaAfter proposing $313 billion in cuts to providers of health care this weekend, President Obama took the stage at the American Medical Association’s (AMA) annual meeting in Chicago today to reassure doctors and ask for their backing of his plan to remake health care.

It was the latest stop on Obama’s campaign for health reform and the first time a president has addressed the AMA since Ronald Reagan in 1983.

To trim wasteful spending, Obama suggested changing payment of doctors and hospitals to reward quality over quantity of care.

But many doctors fret that cuts and a proposed government-run insurance option could hurt their livelihoods. “Now, I know there’s some concern about a public option,” Obama told the doctors. “In particular, I understand that you are concerned that today’s Medicare rates will be applied broadly in a way that means our cost savings are coming off your backs.” 

While calling the concerns “legitimate,” Obama said they could be overcome by rewarding best practices over the “current piece-work reimbursement.” He also said he wouldn’t push a single-payer system.

The president called for greater spending on preventive care, a switch to electronic medial records, a reduction of medical school costs for students and scrutiny of the effectiveness of treatments.

The price of the $2-trillion-a-year health care system, which Obama called a "ticking time bomb," is poised to consume 20 percent of individuals' salaries within 10 years. "For all this spending," he said, "the quality of our care is often lower, and we aren't any healthier."

He applauded the AMA's efforts in teaming up with others in the health-care industry to cut $2 trillion in spending over the next decade and received standing ovations himself from the gathering of doctors. But the hall quieted—and a few people booed—when he argued against caps on malpractice awards, saying they “can be unfair to people who’ve been wrongfully harmed.”

Read coverage from 10 years ago about rising health care costs.

Image of Obama at a 2007 presidential forum on health care courtesy of the Center for American Progress Action Fund via Flickr

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