The AMA has a long history of supporting government-subsidized health care, but has always drawn the line at a system of socialized medicine, ie, single-payer.  The current plans wending their way through the House and Senate would normally have gotten enthusiastic support from the AMA, but the association has balked at a key proposal from the administration:

As the health care debate heats up, the American Medical Association is letting Congress know that it will oppose creation of a government-sponsored insurance plan, which President Obama and many other Democrats see as an essential element of legislation to remake the health care system.

The opposition, which comes as Mr. Obama prepares to address the powerful doctors’ group on Monday in Chicago, could be a major hurdle for advocates of a public insurance plan. The A.M.A., with about 250,000 members, is America’s largest physician organization.

While committed to the goal of affordable health insurance for all, the association had said in a general statement of principles that health services should be “provided through private markets, as they are currently.” It is now reacting, for the first time, to specific legislative proposals being drafted by Congress.

The AMA wants the legislation to focus on leveraging private-market insurance instead of government-backed plans, and for good reason: they’ve dealt with Medicare.  Many doctors have given up on Medicare altogether, refusing to take any new Medicare-insured patients, because Medicare doesn’t cover the costs of providing their service.  Medicare is also a paperwork nightmare, as I can attest from first-hand experience.  They often withdraw payments already given to doctors a year or more later over some hiccup in their internal accounting.  The headaches of getting reimbursements makes Medicare business unprofitable.

However, as the New York Times’ Robert Pear reports, the public plan is the key element to ObamaCare.  The White House claims that they want to use it to keep insurers “honest,” but competition and sensible regulation do that.  They want to have an option to offer a loss-leader plan that will undercut the private insurers on price so that they will get forced out of the health-care sector, which will leave a single-payer plan in place by default.  The AMA understands this better than anyone, and will mobilize to keep from getting locked into a Medicare nightmare with no escape.

To a certain extent, though, the AMA brought this upon themselves.  Pear also reports that they broke with a trend of supporting Republicans in national elections in 2008, giving 56% of their donations to Democrats.  They got the Congress and the White House they wanted, even though Obama and the Democrats made it perfectly clear how they envisioned ObamaCare.  I’m glad to see the AMA fighting this, but they deserve the Captain Louis Renault Award for their shock, shock! that Democrats want to impose socialized medicine:

Well, at least they’re blowing the whistle now.