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Doctors, AARP support new health overhaul bill

CARLA K. JOHNSON Updated: March 19, 2010 at 12:00 am

CHICAGO — The nation’s largest association of doctors and the AARP senior citizens’ lobby are endorsing President Barack Obama’s revised health overhaul legislation.

James Rohack, president of the American Medical Association, said Friday that the pending bill isn’t perfect, but it’s the next step toward real reform of the nation’s health care system.

“This is certainly not the bill we would have written, but we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” Rohack said.

The board of the Chicago-based group reached a consensus and voted unanimously Thursday night after a review of the House reconciliation bill.

The AMA has supported earlier versions of the bill. One of its top priorities is permanently ending scheduled cuts in doctors’ Medicare reimbursements. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday she would try pushing such a bill through Congress soon.

“We will hold Congress’ feet to the fire on getting that done before this Congress adjourns,” Rohack said Friday in a telephone conference with reporters.

The bill “goes a long way” toward assuring access to primary care for patients on Medicaid, the federal-state health program for the poor and disabled, Rohack said. The legislation gives primary care doctors a pay raise for Medicaid patients, increasing payments to the level of Medicare, as it expands Medicaid coverage to more patients in 2013 and 2014.

The bill would provide federal funding to states to cover that increase in Medicaid costs.

AARP has steadily supported health overhaul efforts. The organization’s CEO A. Barry Rand sent a letter Friday to members of the House of Representatives, urging them to vote yes.

In a statement Friday, AARP said the legislation “will improve health care for older Americans and their families.” The bill gradually closes the “doughnut hole” coverage gap in the Medicare prescription drug benefit and limits insurance companies’ ability to charge higher premiums based solely on age, AARP said.

Associated Press Writer Alan Fram contributed to this report from Washington.

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