Obama addresses AMA in Chicago

June 15, 2009 (CHICAGO) "It is a ticking time bomb for the federal budget and unsustainable for the United States of America," said Obama.

Obama's address to the American Medical Association was the first for a president since Ronald Reagan in 1983.

The president didn't get into specifics about his plan.

But he does support setting up a system in which private health plans compete with a government plan. The upfront cost is $ 1 trillion.

Republicans are already speaking out against it.

But for today, President Obama's goal was to gain the support of the nation's doctors.

In the past, the American Medical association has been left out of the health care reform discussion, something Obama says he will not do.

In an hour long speech, the president not only laid out his vision for reform but asked for the doctors' help.

His brief trip to Chicago was all business. With 46 million uninsured Americans without health insurance and a health care bill that now tops $2 trillion a year, President Barack Obama says now is the time to act because he says the cost of doing nothing will devastate the American economy.

But the president told the nation's doctors reform does not mean socialized medicine.

"If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan," said Obama.

Obama says fix what's broken and on build on what works. He says preventive care, decreasing unnecessary treatments and tests and computerizing medical records will all help drive down costs.

"You didn't enter this profession to be bean counters and paper pushers...you entered this profession to be healers," said Obama.

Doctors say it's about time.

"We no longer just take care of patients but we're accountable for all this paperwork that gets in the way of us doing what we know how to do which is taking care of patients," said said James Milan, Illinois State Medical Society.

Obama's reform plan also includes a public option, a low cost government plan that would compete with private insurers. The American Medical Association is not ready to sign off on that yet.

"Our fear is that a public plan would be funded in such a way to give it an economic advantage over the tradition insurance that people have," said Dr. David Hannon, AMA member.

But overall, doctors liked what they heard. With nine standing ovations, the AMA is happy to be at the table discussing reform. However, there was a boo. Obama told doctors point blank medical malpractice caps will not be part of his reform. Trial lawyers are thrilled.

"If they are negligent...practice medicine bloat standard of care, then they should be accountable for the devastation," said Thomas Demetrio, Corboy & Demetrio.

While trial lawyers are relieved the president will not change his position on caps, the Amercian Medical Association is pleased Obama acknowledged that some time of liability reform is needed.

Meantime, North Shore congressman Mark Kirk is worried about how a government plan would be funded and obama's former opponent John McCain is concerned about how it would affect private insurance.

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