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New AMA chief: High court ruling won’t throw health care into chaos

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Dr. Jeremy Lazarus, a Denver psychiatrist taking over as the American Medical Association’s president later this month, said not to expect chaos if the U.S. Supreme Court rejects all or part of President Obama’s sweeping health care law. (Associated Press)

CHICAGO — Americans should not expect chaos if the U.S. Supreme Court rejects all or part of the sweeping health care law, the incoming president of the nation’s largest physicians group said Wednesday.

Dr. Jeremy Lazarus, who takes over as the American Medical Association’s president later this month, isn’t making any predictions on a high court decision, he told the Associated Press.

He said he would prefer that the court uphold President Obama’s health overhaul, but if it doesn’t, “I don’t see doctors just throwing up their hands or patients not being able to get taken care of.”

Health insurance coverage “and how that influences the cost of health care, and whether everyone gets a fair shot at getting coverage — those will be challenges. But I don’t think it will be chaotic,” Dr. Lazarus said.

Dr. Lazarus, 68, a Denver psychiatrist, takes over at the AMA on June 19 during the group’s annual policymaking meeting in Chicago. He’ll be just the third psychiatrist to lead the AMA, and the first in decades.

The current president, Dr. Peter Carmel, is a neurosurgeon who ends his yearlong term during the meeting.

The AMA has supported Mr. Obama’s health overhaul, though a vocal contingent of doctor-members has urged the group to back off that stance.

Both sides are waiting to see whether the justices declare that one of the law’s most challenged mandates — that most Americans carry health insurance — is unconstitutional. The court’s decision could affect other parts of the law, too.

“We’re all going to be waiting to see what the Supreme Court does,” Dr. Lazarus said. “One way or the other we’re going to try to get the uninsured covered. Whatever the Supreme Court decides, that will be a big issue for the AMA going forward.”

If the justices uphold the entire law, “We’ll be moving forward with implementation,” Dr. Lazarus said.

States will be setting up their state health exchanges, accountable care organizations will move forward, about 30 million more Americans will become insured, and 2.5 million young adults younger than 26 will remain covered under their parents’ health insurance plans, Dr. Lazarus said.

If the court doesn’t uphold the law, some or all of those components will be threatened, although legislation likely would be proposed to cover some of the law’s provisions, he said. “That uncertainty is unsettling to everyone,” Dr. Lazarus said.

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