AMA plays down its displeasure with health plan


WASHINGTON -- The American Medical Association soft-pedaled its unhappiness with parts of President Clinton's health plan in Senate testimony yesterday, saying it could even agree to overall national health care budgets if doctors were involved in setting them.

The AMA has called on its members to lobby patients against financial restrictions on health care such as limits on the cost of insurance premiums and cuts in the growth of Medicare and Medicaid.

Dr. James S. Todd, the AMA's executive vice president, said, "Absolutely not," when asked if the group was so dissatisfied that it could not work on developing the plan.

"The need for reform is now," Dr. Todd told the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee. "The president has provided a good foundation from which to start. We have found him to be responsive to some of the concerns which we have raised; we need to go forward with the president, with this committee and with the Congress, and get it done."

Dr. Todd was one of five spokesmen for major organizations of doctors, hospitals and nurses who testified and praised the Clinton plan in general terms while raising particular concerns over whether it would provide enough money for nurses' training, whether its overall timetable was impracticably rapid and whether Medicare should be integrated into the proposed system.

Of the groups testifying yesterday, organizations of hospitals and doctors have fought some recent national health care efforts. But Dr. Robert Graham, executive vice president of the American Academy of Family Practice, rebuffed Republican senators who tried to get him to say the president's plan involved limiting choices.

He said the plan "maintains pluralism." In any event, he said, patients have less and less room in the current system to choose doctors.

Sister Maryanna Coyle, head of the board of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, said that while the organization was against including abortion coverage in a plan, it was not saying it would oppose the bill solely for that reason.

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