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AMA Chief: Health Bill Still In Early Stages

The American Medical Association, which last week backed the House Democrats' version of a bill to overhaul health care, endorsed the measure not for what it is now, but for what it may yet become, the group's president says.

"We did not believe that the bill that was introduced was going to be the final bill, but we also believe that this was too early to call the bill and say, 'That's it, we're not going to play anymore,'" AMA President Dr. James Rohack tells Robert Siegel. "We believe, like a baseball game, we're in the second inning."

The AMA's support of the measure was seen as remarkable because of the group's long history of opposition to a federal government role in health care. The AMA has worked against the health-care plans of Presidents Truman, Kennedy, Johnson and Clinton.

The House bill, known as America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, would create a public health insurance alternative, and mandate coverage for most individuals and from most employers. Some state medical associations, like the one in Texas, have broken with the AMA on endorsing the bill. Rohack, however, says change is needed.

"The American Medical Association is committed to having fundamental health reform this year," he says. "And, the reason is: status quo is unacceptable."

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