Why Obama's Speaking To The AMA Monday

The day after the White House announced that President Obama would be speaking to the American Medical Association convention in Chicago, the AMA let it be known that they'd oppose any "public plan" option as part of the new health care delivery system. The AMA speaks for some docs, but not a majority of them, and they're institutionally bound to oppose any choice that would automatically reduce fees for doctors. So why is Obama bothering to engage this skeptical constituency?

The White House believes that most Americans believe that the AMA speaks for doctors. And the White House wants to make sure that doctors are seen as being invited to the table. Engaging the AMA community makes it less likely that the AMA will oppose whatever health care legislation ultimately emerges from the House and the Senate in toto, which means that doctors aren't going to be counseling their patients on the evils of health reform.

But the speech on Monday shouldn't be seen only in the context of Obama talking to doctors.   In fact, a senior administration official says, it's aimed at patients, convincing them that the status quo is untenable. (People understand the system is in crisis, but they're very skeptical about reform efforts because they worry they'll lose their choice of doctor and the quality of their care, if they have it.)