The AMA launched a multimillion-dollar media campaign in August to promote
its proposals to provide health insurance to the record number of uninsured
The AMA campaign, called "Voices for the Uninsured," is spending
$5 million initially to coincide with the 2008 U.S. presidential election. It
involves newspaper, television, and radio ads that will run in early-primary
states including Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. The campaign will go
national next year and will include lobbying Congress to pass comprehensive
The campaign was announced the week before the latest census figures showed
the number of uninsured Americans rose 2.2 million in 2006 to 47 million. The
Current Population Survey found that 15.8 percent of Americans lacked coverage
last year, up from 15.3 percent in 2005. The increase equaled 1998 as the year
with the highest percentage of uninsured people over the last two decades.
The impact on children was trouble-some as well, according to data from t
U.S. Census Bureau, which found t 11.7 percent of U.S. citizens under age 18
had no health insurance in 2006, up from 10.9 percent in the previous year.
The percentage of uninsured children has increased two years in a row after
declining for at least five years, according to the census data.
"It is unconscionable that the number of uninsured children has
substantially increased over the past year," said AMA Board member
Joseph Heyman, M.D., in a written statement. "Children are our future,
and for kids to get a good start in life, they need access to regular visits
to the doctor."
The AMA's insurance campaign supports tax credits for the purchase of
health insurance and for increasing federal funds to expand government health
programs such as the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) and
Medicaid. Both houses of Congress have passed SCHIP expansions but President
Bush has threatened to veto both versions because of their cost
(Psychiatric News, September 7).
The AMA insurance proposal was created with several other groups as part of
an alliance called the Health Coverage Coalition for the Uninsured, which
includes AARP and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
However, AMA leaders said the 250,000-member organization could support
"If [elected officials] don't like our plan, then let's meet and come
up with a common plan," said Nancy Nielsen, M.D., AMA president-elect,
during an August press conference.
Nielsen said part of the campaign aims to educate the public and political
candidates that people without insurance are not just among the ranks of those
who are homeless or unemployed. As many as 82 percent of people without health
insurance are in working families.
The AMA doesn't endorse candidates for president but is urging presidential
hopefuls to incorporate its proposals into their health care platforms.
"We want candidates to make a commitment to reducing the number of
uninsured," Nielsen said.
Although APA has not endorsed the AMA plan specifically, APA President
Carolyn Robinowitz, M.D., said that the Association does support any effort
that will increase Americans' access to health care, including treatment for
mental illness. Many uninsured Americans end up using emergency rooms as their
main source of medical care, Robinowitz told Psychiatric News, which
means they are unlikely to receive preventive care and early interventions
that avoid further suffering and save money that will have to be spent on
"Even the business community has realized the long-term benefits from
wide access to quality health care," Robinowitz said, citing business
groups' recent support for Senate mental health parity legislation that their
earlier opposition had stalled.
More information on the AMA's "Voice for the Uninsured"
campaign is posted at<www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/category/17712.html>.▪