AMA To Expand 'Voice for the Uninsured' Campaign Nationwide

The American Medical Association on Tuesday announced the nationwide expansion of a campaign that seeks to focus the health care debate in the presidential election on the issue of the uninsured, The Hill reports. The multimillion-dollar “Voice for the Uninsured” campaign, which includes advertisements and outreach efforts, last year targeted early presidential caucus and primary states — Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — and Washington, D.C.

This week, television ads for the campaign began to air on cable networks, and print ads appeared in U.S. News & World Report. As the presidential election nears, print ads for the campaign will appear in other national magazines, and online ads will appear on MySpace and Facebook.

AMA will not endorse a specific presidential candidate and likely will not comment on any of their health care proposals (Young, The Hill, 1/9).

Detroit News Articles Address Health Care as Election Issue
The Detroit News on Thursday published two articles that discuss the issue of health care in the presidential election. Summaries appear below.

* Democrats: Health care proposals from Democratic candidates would allow U.S. residents with employer-sponsored health insurance to retain their coverage and offer tax breaks and subsidies to help the uninsured purchase private coverage or pay to participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, the News reports. Their proposals also would revise eligibility requirements for Medicaid and SCHIP to include more low-income families and their children. Proposals from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) would require all residents to obtain health insurance, but a proposal from Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) would require coverage only for children. According to the News, Democratic candidates have sought to “avoid another ‘HillaryCare’ backlash” (Price/Kozlowski [1], Detroit News, 1/10).

* Republicans: Health care proposals from Republican candidates seek to use market-based reforms to reduce costs and improve quality of care, the News reports. A proposal from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who seeks to shift U.S. residents from employer-sponsored health insurance to individual coverage, would make individual health insurance tax deductible and provide tax credits to help low-income residents purchase coverage. Other Republican candidates “also are advocating market-based solutions,” according to the News. A proposal from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, for example, would link the federal Medicaid funds that states receive to wellness programs. A proposal from Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) would establish a “safe harbor” to protect physicians who follow clinical guidelines from medical malpractice lawsuits as part of an effort to reduce health care costs. In addition, a proposal from former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney would make health insurance premiums, out-of-pocket costs and other health care expenses tax deductible (Price/Kozlowski [2], Detroit News, 1/10).

A side-by-side comparison of the candidates’ health plans is available on

Opinion Piece
Edwards has used the “personal tragedy” of Nataline Sarkisyan — a 17-year-old girl who died after Cigna refused to cover a life-saving liver transplant that she required — “to boost his political campaign,” and his “repeated references” to her death indicate the “obscenely cynical way he’d govern as president,” Joel Zinberg, vice president of the New York County Medical Society and an associate clinical professor of surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital, writes in a New York Post opinion piece. Edwards is “dishonest and ignores important public policy concerns: Cigna didn’t kill Sarkisyan, her disease did,” according to Zinberg.

He writes, “Medical insurance firms are highly unpopular with both patients and especially physicians — and with good reason” — but “in this case, contrary to Edwards’ rant against corporate greed, the Sarkisyans’ insurer authorized payment for three years of treatment for Nataline, including an expensive bone-marrow transplant.” In the decision to deny coverage for the liver transplant for Sarkisyan, Cigna was “only acting as the administrator of Sarkisyan’s father’s employer’s health plan” and was “preserving the plan’s funds for the next leukemia patient,” Zinberg writes.

He concludes, “We want a president who is interested in sound policy, who can clearly consider everyone’s welfare free of the emotional overlay and distortion that have become Edwards’ stock in trade” (Zinberg, New York Post, 1/10).
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