The American Medical Association has backed a tax penalty for uninsured Americans who earn enough to buy medical insurance but choose not to. This number has been estimated to be about five million Americans.
State and federal lawmakers have already been considering legislation towards this issue in Congress and state houses in America and the AMA's House of Delegates voting in favor of individual responsibility comes close on its heels.
AMA's new role has been a shift from its past stand on using government mandates.
The AMA will have its lobbying clout supporting state and federal initiatives which advocate a tax penalty for those individuals earning $49,000 or more a year as well as for families of four who make $100,000 or more if they do not become medically insured. Under the AMA plan, individuals or families earning greater than 500 percent of the federal poverty level 'would be required to obtain a minimum of catastrophic health care' coverage. The AMA specifications do not include the amount or specific kind of plan people should buy.
This is only the latest of an increasing number of legislative and political proposals that compels people to have coverage.
In Massachusetts, Gov. Mitt Romney signed legislation two months ago, which made Massachusetts the first to require state residents to have health insurance just as drivers must have auto insurance.
Although Romney's proposal is financed through hundreds of millions of dollars in assessments on insurers, penalties paid by employers and state Medicaid funds, the AMA's proposal is devoid of details. AMA officials did not offer a specific amount of tax penalties that would be levied against the uninsured.
'This is our policy that would be used at the federal level to get uninsured people covered,' said Dr. Ardis Hoven, a member of the AMA's board of trustees, 'I'd like to think of this as the carrot.'
Hoven and AMA officials said 'young, relatively healthy individuals,' account for most of the 11 percent, or about 5 million of the nation's more than 45 million uninsured Americans.
Opposition among doctors and critics of such proposals in Washington accompanied the passing of the vote. While AMA officials said the vote had been passed by a 'large majority' of its 544-member House of Delegates, a specific vote count was not taken.
Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies for the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington who criticized the move said, 'The AMA has a long history of sacrificing consumer freedom when physician incomes are threatened and they are doing that with this tax increase,' said. 'They are trying to crack down on nurse practitioners because they don't like competition and I have not heard of any resolutions they have offered to make the health-care system more competitive like opening your office longer or lowering your prices. These would be consumer friendly responses to competition.'