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Doctors endorse liberal health overhaul bill

CHICAGO — The American Medical Association on Thursday endorsed a liberal health overhaul bill that includes a public insurance option, a bold step for a traditionally conservative group with a checkered past on health reforms.

In its strongest action yet signaling support for President Obama's vow to reform health care, the nation's largest doctors' group sent letters to three House committees behind the bill. The letters, signed by AMA's executive vice president, Dr. Michael Maves, said the AMA appreciates and supports what is being called America's Affordable Health Choices Act.

The bill would create a health insurance exchange, or "marketplace for individuals and small employers to comparison shop among private and public insurers." It wouldn't force patients or doctors into plans — a fear some physicians have had about the concept of public health insurance.

Another selling point is the bill's proposed Medicare reforms, including repeal of what AMA considers a flawed formula that has annually reduced Medicare reimbursements to physicians.

Dr. J. James Rohack, AMA's president, told The Associated Press that the group's endorsement shouldn't be seen as the AMA turning more liberal.

"It's not blue or red, or Democratic or Republican. This is something that is the AMA's core values," Rohack said. "The status quo that is 50 million Americans not having health insurance, a system that has administrative waste and as a result drives up premiums so that it is unaffordable for many patients — that is just not acceptable."

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