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AMA warns against price controls on doctors

Leaders of the American Medical Association laid the groundwork Monday for an aggressive legal and political campaign against two important elements of the health plan being developed by President Clinton: limits on national health care spending and on doctors' charges.

The association's board of trustees warned there would be significant constitutional problems if the government tried to impose price controls or an overall limit on health spending, both of which have been advocated by the White House.

The doctors and their lawyers asserted that "a physician's right to practice medicine is a property right" protected by the Fifth Amendment.

In Washington, White House officials said they were not surprised by the positions of the medical association. Robert Boorstin, a White House spokesman, said of the price controls, "I have a sneaking suspicion" that the views of consumers and economists will count for more than the views of the American Medical Association.

The AMA board said it planned "an aggressive lobbying effort" to resist price controls, limits on health care spending and other Clinton proposals opposed by doctors. The doctors support some of Clinton's ideas, like a guaranteed package of health benefits for all Americans.

But the Clinton administration is considering limits on fees charged by doctors to private patients, as well as Medicare and Medicaid patients.