20090615 obama ama health 18
President Barack Obama makes his way onto the stage to address the American Medical Association's annual conference at a hotel in Chicago. - 


Kai Ryssdal: This is clearly a big speech week for the president. Mr. Obama was in Chicago today. He spent an hour or so with the American Medical Association to continue his campaign for health-care reform. There was a fair amount of applause from a group that's been painted recently as not totally on board with changes to the nation's health-care system. There was a "boo" or two as well at a couple of points. The president warned the nation's doctors that if we don't cut health-care costs the whole country could wind up like General Motors. Jill Barshay reports now that for doctors overhauling America's health-care system hasn't been about the if, really. It's about the how.

JILL BARSHAY: When it comes to fixing health care, doctors have been like uncooperative patients. Les Funtleyder, is a health care industry analyst at Miller Tabak in New York.

LES Funtleyder: The AMA has been one of the organizations that has been scuttling health-care reform since Franklin Roosevelt. So I think it would be helpful to have them on his side.

President Obama agrees.

PRESIDENT BARACK Obama: I need your help, doctors. Because to most Americans, you are the health-care system. The fact is Americans -- and I include myself, Michelle and our kids in this -- we just do what you tell us to do.

But not when it comes to medical malpractice. Obama disappointed doctors today when he said he would not recommend caps on malpractice awards.

Robert Laszewski is a health-care policy analyst in Washington. He says what's really at stake for the doctors is their livelihood and how reform may redistribute the wealth.

ROBERT Laszewski: Some of them are cardiologists who are paid really well and are making great livings. And some of them are pediatricians who are barely hanging on. But if you try to cut specialists and give the money to primary care, you'll probably have a civil war between the physicians.

Laszewski says that the American Medical Association isn't as powerful as it used to be. It represents only a third of the nation's 800,000 doctors. But he says the one thing they can agree on is that they don't want a pay cut.

I'm Jill Barshay for Marketplace.