The US must reform its health insurance system or face “going broke”, president Barack Obama has told the country’s doctors.

The American Medical Association has opposed his proposal for public insurance for those without private cover.

Mr Obama told the association’s annual meeting yesterday: “Make no mistake: the cost of our health care is a threat to our economy.

“It is an escalating burden on our families and businesses. It is a ticking time-bomb for the federal budget.

“If we do not fix our healthcare system, America may go the way of GM; paying more, getting less, and going broke.”

The association has raised concerns about the huge cost of providing public insurance and said it could undermine private insurers.

Mr Obama said: “I know there has been much discussion about what reform would cost, and rightly so.

“But let there be no doubt – the cost of inaction is greater. If we fail to act, premiums will climb higher, benefits will erode further, and the rolls of uninsured will swell to include millions more Americans.

“If we fail to act, one out of every five dollars we earn will be spent on healthcare within a decade.”

Affordable

“In 30 years, it will be about one out of every three – a trend that will mean lost jobs, lower take-home pay, shuttered businesses, and a lower standard of living for all Americans.”

The association said in a statement it was also “committed to health reform this year that provide all Americans with affordable, high-quality health coverage”.

President Nancy Nielsen said last week: “A government-run healthcare plan is certainly not the only option on the table, and there are alternatives we are actively considering.

“The AMA is engaged in continuing discussions with President Obama and members of Congress about how to make healthcare coverage for all a reality.

“We are focused on reform that covers the uninsured, makes private insurance more affordable, increases the value we receive from our healthcare spending and enhances prevention and wellness for all patients.”

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