President Barack Obama on Monday laid out perhaps the most comprehensive case he has made yet for health care reform, sketching for American Medical Association members assembled in Chicago the multitude of ways he believes his proposal will expand coverage and improve care. Obama defended his call for a public insurance option which the AMA opposes as necessary to ensure those who cant afford coverage get it. But the president had a carrot for the doctors, suggesting that he will take a look at ways to reduce the burden of malpractice suits. While ruling out caps on malpractice awards, Obama said he wanted to explore a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first, let doctors focus on practicing medicine, encourage broader use of evidence-based guidelines and work with the AMA to scale back the excessive defensive medicine.Obama said a government-run plan should be one of a range of options available to consumers under a health insurance exchange that would allow consumers to compare the benefits and prices of a public option with private insurance. Those who cannot afford to purchase any of the plans would get government assistance to do so.Obama denied that a public option would lead to a single-payer system, stating repeatedly that those who like their insurance can keep what they have.The president said reform would reduce health costs by identifying the best treatments and incentivizing the practice of good medicine by doctors, who are lured by the current system into prescribing extra procedures, according to Obama. He outlined the cost savings in Medicare and Medicaid that White House aides have identified to help pay for the public option. And the president declared that another pay-for limiting tax deductions for high-earning taxpayers would not reduce charitable giving, as some in Congress fear. In a conference call organized by the Republican National Committee for reporters before the speech, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), a practicing physician who is attending the AMA convention in Chicago, suggested Obama could do little to sway the doctors to support a public plan. I think the concept will be looked on with some suspicion and concern, he said.In a statement, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said any Obama moves toward helping doctors with their malpractice suits would be negated by the federal involvement in health care. Were pleased the president has expressed rhetorical support for medical liability reform, but fact is the effect of even the strongest medical liability reforms would be negated by a government takeover of health care that raises taxes, rations care, and drives health care costs even higher, Boehner said.Real medical liability reform must establish tough standards to reform the medical liability system, encourage the speedy resolution of claims, and deter junk lawsuits, Boehner said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.