Short take: AMA backs health plan mandate

  • Article by: JILL BURCUM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 21, 2011 - 3:21 PM

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A critical but controversial component of the Affordable Care Act  — the requirement that people buy health insurance — got a welcome shot of support this week at the annual meeting of the American Medical Association (AMA).

The nation’s most influential doctors’ organization voted 326-165 to continue backing the individual mandate, which is at the heart of the constitutional challenges to the new federal health care law. The AMA had supported the mandate during the law’s 2010 passage.

But the AMA had been pressured by some state medical groups and specialty societies to abandon its support for this measure. Just a guess: many members of these anti-mandate groups will be on the losing end when the new law starts to reward providers for quality of care vs. quantity of care.

The AMA delegates’ vote is a triumph of pragmatism over ideology. The mandate is not the attack on personal liberty that health reform opponents disingenously claim. Instead, it’s about personal responsibility.Those who choose not to buy insurance should not be allowed to stick everybody else with the bill. And that’s what happens when the uninsured get sick or hurt.

Nor is the mandate a radical idea. The nation already has a mandate to purchase health insurance. It’s called the Medicare payroll tax. Those who work help pay for the elderly’s medical care.

The AMA vote won’t persuade anti-Obamacare hardliners to change their minds. But the AMA’s institutional support offers up a timely and substantive counterweight to the mandate fearmongering that too often dominates the debate.

Jill Burcum is a Star Tribune editorial writer.

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