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AMA President-Elect Must Engage with Single Payer

August 12, 2022

Summary: The newly elected president of the American Medical Association is an accomplished physician, both civilian and military, a philanthropic leader, and a gay parent. He also has a history of opposing even consideration of single payer within the AMA. It behooves him to open his perspective to single payer, just as society has opened to accepting gay relationships.

Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, MD, MPH, wins office of AMA president-elect
June 14, 2022

Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, MD, MPH, an anesthesiologist in Wisconsin, was voted president-elect of the American Medical Association by the physicians and medical students gathered at the 2022 AMA Annual Meeting of the House of Delegates.

Following a year-long term as president-elect, Dr. Ehrenfeld will be installed as AMA president in June 2023. Dr. Ehrenfeld will be the first openly gay person to hold the office of president-elect, and also will be the first as AMA president.

Service to country and community
Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, MD’04, MPH, advocates for impact
Medicine on the Midway
Spring 2021
By Kate Dohner

When Jesse Ehrenfeld began his education at the Pritzker School of Medicine, he expected he would return to his home state of Delaware to be “your average country doctor.” Yet, he has become much more—and far from “average.”

Ehrenfeld divides his time between advocacy work, clinical practice and research. He is the immediate past chair of the American Medical Association and director of Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment, a $511 million endowment at the Medical College of Wisconsin. In this role, Ehrenfeld serves as a strategic investor in health, allocating grants to support research, education and community initiatives across Wisconsin.

Despite his busy schedule, Ehrenfeld, 42, still finds time to dedicate to what is most important to him: family, including his husband, their 2-year-old son, and two rescue dogs.

Subject: Redefining AMA’s Position on ACA and Healthcare Reform
Presented by: Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, MD, MPH, Chair

Much of the current attention has been focused on single payer plans put forth in both the House and the Senate. The AMA continues to oppose this approach and remains focused on strengthening what works and expanding access to and choice of affordable, quality health insurance. Despite pressure from many members of the Democratic caucus, House leadership remains reluctant to take up single payer proposals. Polling has shown that while the concept of single payer, or “Medicare for All” proposals is popular, support falls off sharply when the implications of doing away with current coverage pathways is more closely examined. The AMA continues to support health insurance coverage for all Americans that is focused on pluralism, freedom of choice, freedom of practice and universal access for patients and will direct our advocacy efforts toward these goals.

Comment by: Don McCanne & Jim Kahn

There are so many problems in health care in the United States today, that you would hope that the American Medical Association would select as their president-elect an individual who would be dedicated to addressing those problems. Although Jesse Ehrenfeld is highly qualified, the fact that he chaired the governing committee that rejected consideration of a truly effective method of ensuring affordable health care for everyone – single payer – does raise the question whether he is a good choice to be AMA president at this time.

Society has also been struggling with defining sexual roles and the family unit. Enlightened opinion provides for flexibility in relationships between consenting adults, and responsible parenting by two men is widely accepted. Kudos to the AMA for selecting a leader so openly in a non-traditional family structure. Social understanding, attitudes, and policies have changed, for the better.

Similarly, support for broad healthcare financing reform has strengthened. We certainly hope that Dr. Ehrenfeld has evolved in his thinking in the 9 years since the AMA reform policy report, with the continued deterioration of the healthcare system and growing AMA membership support for single payer.

As Sandy (she, her) and Don (he, his) celebrate a 62nd wedding anniversary on August 13th, and Rani (she, her) and Jim (he, his) celebrate 28 years on August 14th, our primary concern is about the social injustices in our nation, led by health care injustice. The AMA should be assuming a leadership role in ensuring health care justice for all, which they could do by advocating for single payer reform.

Don is a Life Member of the AMA (a special category no longer available), and certainly does not intend to resign because of Dr. Ehrenfeld’s position on Medicare for All, but does intend to speak up loud and clear. As will Jim (albeit from a non-AMA perch). We need comprehensive, accessible, affordable, equitable, quality health care for all, and the AMA needs to help pave the way.

© Health Justice Monitor
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