NEW ORLEANS -- Top officials of the American Medical Association are appealing to doctors to show restraint in criticizing President Clinton's plan to overhaul the nation's health care system, even as members of the group vowed to seek major changes in the proposal.
At a meeting yesterday that displayed the group's divisions over tactics and strategy in the coming battle over the nation's health care system, Dr. Joseph T. Painter, president of the association, said doctors should look for answers, not adversaries.
Dr. James S. Todd, executive vice president of the association, said, "We want to make policy, not politics."
"We have everything to gain and, oh, so much to lose if we start drawing lines in the sand while the ship of reform is still at sea," Dr. Todd told more than 500 doctors gathered here for the semiannual meeting of the group's policy-making body, the house of delegates.
Several state delegations, including those from New York, Florida, Indiana, Virginia and Texas, said the AMA should re-examine its support of a proposed measure that would require employers to provide health insurance for their employees.
American Medical News, the weekly newspaper of the AMA, said this week that there was a serious split in the organization because "it represents an impossibly diverse membership with conflicting economic interests."
As a result, it said, the AMA has sent mixed signals to politicians.