Today, I'm ready kiss Obama's toes because he accomplished something that I know will turn out to be transformative: He got a letter from the American Medical Association (AMA) committing the group to supporting overhaul of the health care system as long as it includes some sort of commitment to tort reform. (Did I say health care "system"? Sorry, I meant health care "market" because we have a "market" without a system as it stands today, rather like the chaotic masses of public vegetable stands we see in films about India.)
This letter is actually more momentous than Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress last night. Any president can convene a joint session of Congress, as President Bill Clinton did before his 1993/94 health care overhaul failed even to be voted upon in the US Congress. But, as someone who has worked for non-profits and had to drive around collecting letters of support from stakeholders in order to convince a foundation that my program would have buy-in from the community, I know that it took Obama immense negotiations and diplomacy to get this letter from the AMA, particularly to release it on the day of his speech to the joint session of the US Congress.
Now, Obama has the formal support of the largest single group of physicians in the United States and, more importantly, he has prevented the Republicans from getting that support instead. The party that convinced the AMA has a better chance of winning this battle (with the AMA to help Obama beat down Republican opposition).
So, what's the Republican response to this letter of support? Are 400,000 doctors all "socialists". Are they all ignorant of how health care works and how it needs to be fixed? No, they aren't. From now on, when the Republicans and the insurance companies attack supporters of reform, they will be implicitly attacking the American Medical Association. The more they do so, the more AMA support is likely to swing forcefully behind President Obama and health care reform.
One essential aspect of what the AMA says is essential to health care reform is to, "Provide health insurance coverage for all Americans". This insistence that help care reform give everyone access to health care, and not 95%, goes further than what the Congress and Obama were planning to do on their own. And so the buy-in of the AMA could be transformative in this debate.
OK, President Obama. This "game" of working health care reform through the Congress will be a long battle, like a game of chess that takes many turns before it ends in a win, a loss, or a stalemate. But President Obama has clearly made a winning move by gaining this letter of support from the AMA. Congratulations!