NY Times left out key facts in report on AMA

NY Times left out key facts in report on AMA

››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

The New York Times reported that the American Medical Association opposes President Obama's proposal for a new public health insurance plan, without noting the AMA's inconsistency on the public option or that the AMA doesn't represent most doctors.

A June 15 New York Times article by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Robert Pear reported that the American Medical Association (AMA) "has come out against a central component of [President Obama's] broader health care proposal -- his call for a new public insurance program that would compete with the private plans," and that Obama's scheduled June 15 speech at the AMA convention in Chicago "comes as the president's ideas on health reform are facing mounting criticism -- not only from the A.M.A. and Republicans, who also vehemently oppose a new public plan, but also from the hospital industry." But Stolberg and Pear did not note that after a June 10 Times article quoted a statement from the AMA saying the group opposes "a public health insurance option," the AMA backtracked from that position.

Like the June 10 article, the June 15 Times article also did not note that the AMA does not represent the majority of doctors. Indeed, according to its 2008 annual report, the AMA "is a national professional association of physicians with approximately 236 thousand members," and the AMA's online physician locator -- which states that it provides "basic professional information on virtually every licensed physician in the United States" -- includes "more than 814,000 doctors." A March 2005 USA Today article similarly reported that "[t]he nation now has about 800,000 active physicians." Based on the AMA figures, the AMA represents slightly less than 29 percent of licensed physicians in the United States.

The June 10 Times article, by Pear, reported that the AMA "will oppose creation of a government-sponsored insurance plan." The article further reported that the AMA submitted the following statement to the Senate Finance Committee: "The A.M.A. does not believe that creating a public health insurance option for non-disabled individuals under age 65 is the best way to expand health insurance coverage and lower costs. The introduction of a new public plan threatens to restrict patient choice by driving out private insurers, which currently provide coverage for nearly 70 percent of Americans."

Subsequently, in a release responding to the Times, AMA president Nancy Nielsen stated: "Today's New York Times story creates a false impression about the AMA's position on a public plan option in health care reform legislation." Nielsen added: "The AMA opposes any public plan that forces physicians to participate, expands the fiscally-challenged Medicare program or pays Medicare rates, but the AMA is willing to consider other variations of a public plan that are currently under discussion in Congress."

As Media Matters for America documented, NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson also ignored the AMA's inconsistency on a public health care option during a June 12 report.

From the June 15 New York Times article:

On Monday, Mr. Obama will go to the annual medical association meeting to face a group that has come out against a central component of his broader health care proposal -- his call for a new public insurance program that would compete with the private plans. The White House says he will make the case that "reform is the single most important thing we can do for America's long-term fiscal health," and how important it is to have the cooperation of doctors.

But whether he can get them on board is an open question. The speech comes as the president's ideas on health reform are facing mounting criticism -- not only from the A.M.A. and Republicans, who also vehemently oppose a new public plan, but also from the hospital industry, which is up in arms over a proposal Mr. Obama announced on Saturday to pay for his health care overhaul in part by cutting certain hospital reimbursements.

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform
Network/Outlet
The New York Times
Person
Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Robert Pear
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