Professional News
AMA Expands Campaign for Universal Access
Psychiatric News
Volume 43 Number 5 page 6-16

The AMA dedicated $15 million in January for a campaign prior to the national election in November to encourage voters to demand universal health care access for all Americans.

The AMA push is the second phase of its "Voice for the Uninsured" campaign, which aims to spur action to cover the nation's 47 million uninsured (Psychiatric News, February 1).

The campaign stems from observations by AMA members about the consequences faced by their uninsured patients, who often are sicker and die younger, said Samantha Rosman, M.D., an AMA board member, in a written statement. Such patients often skip preventive care and regular checkups until their health problems reach crisis proportions, which then results in more difficult and more costly conditions to treat.

The AMA campaign will use television and print advertisements," healthy-lifestyle events," mobile billboards, Web-based MySpace and Facebook profiles dedicated to the uninsured, and a series of concerts nationwide to bring wider awareness to the uninsured crisis.

"Covering the uninsured is a top priority for the AMA, and we are sharing our proposal with voters and candidates," Rosman said." The AMA plan expands health insurance coverage to all patients, regardless of income or health status."

The AMA does not support a single-payer system of nationalized health care. Instead, it has endorsed a tax credit—based approach that would include needs-based financial assistance designed to purchase health insurance. The AMA plan would allow participants to select the appropriate coverage for themselves and their families, it would include protections for high-risk patients, and it would promote greater responsibility by individuals for their health.

The 2007 phase of the "Voice for the Uninsured" campaign funded advertising and sponsored events in Washington, D.C., and in the early presidential primary states (Psychiatric News, September 21, 2007).

"We all have a voice and a vote," Rosman said. "We know that if Americans make this a priority in the coming election, together we can cover the uninsured."

APA President Carolyn Robinowitz, M.D., said that APA has not endorsed the AMA plan officially, but APA does support any effort that will increase Americans' access to health care, including treatment for mental illness.

APA has long urged better health care access to ensure increased use of preventive care and early interventions to avoid more serious illness and more expensive acute care.

"It's very important that any coverage should include equal access for mental health care as it does for any other medical care," Robinowitz said.

The leading federal legislative priority for APA is the enactment of broad-based insurance parity legislation that has stalled in an intracameral committee.

She said APA promotes health care education so patients know when to seek different types of health care. The more patients know about mental health and mental illness, the more likely they are to seek care earlier.

Information on the AMA campaign is posted at<www.voicefortheuninsured.org>.

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