Patients, Diversity & Health Care: Letter To President Obama

A group of laughing friends at a restaurant( — Dear Speaker Boehner, Leader Pelosi, Leader Reid, and Leader McConnell: The National Medical Association (NMA) is the nation’s oldest and largest association of African American physicians, representing over 50,000 physicians and the millions of patients that they serve.

In previous statements, the NMA has insisted that any attempts to balance the federal budget and reduce deficits should not impede access to health care, compromise the quality of care, or increase inequities in health status among underserved populations. As physicians committed to all patients, but with an additional interest in at risk populations, we continue to emphasize our position.

We believe that it would be fiscally “unsound” to attack Medicare and other health programs.

The NMA uniquely understands the need for diversity and inclusion in all aspects of decision making. Therefore, we would strongly urge each of you to include men and women of African American, Latino, Asian American, Native American, or Pacific Islander descent, on the “super committee” created by the Budget Control Act, in order to ensure the most diverse perspective possible in the committee’s deliberations.

The NMA is also hopeful that the super committee will bear in mind the inescapable fact that everyone uses the health care system at some point and has a stake in its future. NMA physicians, as do most physicians, remain committed to caring for Medicare patients and are keenly watching any proposed changes in this program. If reductions in federal spending force providers out of the
Medicare system, for example, more and more vulnerable Americans will postpone much needed care because they cannot find a physician in a timely manner. This, as we all know, leads to more expensive care down the road, with less desirable clinical outcomes. Beyond mere numbers on a balance sheet, the dollars we spend in health care represent real people.

Of note, many Americans agree that the best way to deal with our debt and deficit problems is economic growth. Our fragile economy needs as many wellpaying jobs as we can generate, and health care has been among the most reliable sectors for job creation. We urge Congress to keep healthcare “healthy” and particularly keep Medicare and other health subsidy programs out of danger in this budget crisis. The NMA believes that this is the right thing to do and the “prescription” for a healthier nation of Medicare beneficiaries.
Mr. Byron Sogie-Thomas, our Director of Health Policy and Government Relations ([email protected] or 202 207 1541), will be happy to answer any follow-up questions you might have.

In closing, the NMA is the “conscience of American medicine” and has a wealth of knowledge and commitment to America’s health. We do not just verbalize this commitment; it is seen by the members of the NMA in their clinical practices every single day as they take care of millions of patients. In this light, the NMA offers our expertise, comments and unique prospective to the super committee
and Congressional leaders.

Please feel free to contact us for testimony or advice from the nation’s African American physicians.


Cedric M. Bright, M.D.
112th President of the National Medical Association