AMA official: Portable health plans offer choices

Anne Thrower

A top official with the American Medical Association will visit Pensacola today and discuss his desire for a fundamental shift in the way employees get health insurance.

Dr. Cecil B. Wilson, chairman of the AMA board of trustees, is scheduled to speak at the Escambia County Medical Society’s annual inauguration ball. He also will participate in the installation of officers.

Instead of being limited to health-care plans offered by employers, employees should be able to buy insurance on the open market, using money provided by the employer, Wilson said in an interview Friday.

Such a plan would give employees more choices, Wilson said. And it would allow employees to keep the same insurance when switching jobs.

The AMA represents about 250,000 doctors and medical students nationwide.

In addition to portable insurance, Wilson said, the AMA will also focus on the following topics:

· Expanding coverage for the uninsured. Wilson said almost 47 million Americans do not have insurance. “Those who do not have health insurance tend to be sicker and die sooner.”

Ultimately, everyone pays, Wilson said. People without insurance tend to wait until they are sicker before getting treatment, usually at the more expensive hospital emergency room.

· Medical liability. The cost of malpractice insurance has increased dramatically in recent years.

For example, an obstetrician 10 years ago was paying $30,000 for the insurance compared to $100,000 to $120,000 today, Wilson said.

The AMA favors a plan that would target frivolous lawsuits by limiting pain and suffering awards and how much attorneys receive as part of the settlement, Wilson said.

· Medicare reimbursements. “The payment formula hasn’t increased with the cost of care,” Wilson said.

The AMA will continue to fight initiatives to cut or freeze the reimbursement rates, which have not been keeping up with the annual 3 percent inflation rate, he said.

At issue is the access to health care for senior citizens, Wilson said. Doctors fear they will not be able to take care of as many seniors in the future, he said.

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