- The Washington Times - Monday, December 21, 2009

The American Medical Association gave its support Monday to the Senate’s latest health-care reform bill as a result of several key changes.

Dr. Cecil B. Wilson, the group’s president-elect, said the major changes to the bill — which passed a key vote early Monday morning — include more coverage for preventive and wellness care and more research to help patients and physicians make better decisions about treatment.

“The AMA communicated closely with the Senate about items it supported and items of concern in the prior version of the Senate bill,” Dr. Wilson said during a Capitol Hill press conference with top Senate Democrats.

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Other key points were improved access to affordable insurance and no more denying coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions. The legislation also eliminates the tax on physician services for cosmetic surgery and drops the proposed physician-enrollment fee for Medicare.

“While important improvements have been made to the bill, there is still work to be done,” Dr. Wilson said. “And the AMA will continue its advocacy on behalf of patients and physicians through the conference process.”

The bill passed the preliminary vote at about 1 a.m. Monday morning. The 60-40 vote, with all 58 Democrats and two independents voting yes, blocked a possible Republican filibuster.

The Senate intends to hold a final vote on Christmas Eve.

Dr. Wilson said important issues still must be resolved if the bill passes and then House and Senate lawmakers meet in conference to agree to a final version.

He said those issues include the creation of a Medicare payment board and the permanent repeal of the current Medicare physician-payment formula. “The AMA will stay engaged in the process to ensure that the final bill that goes to President Obama for his signature will improve the health care system for patients and physicians,” Dr. Wilson said.

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