Secretary of Health Louis W. Sullivan appealed on Sunday to the nation's largest organization of doctors to curb soaring U.S. medical costs and improve availability of care or risk a virtual popular revolt.
"Unless we act now to meet these goals, we could find ourselves with a critical mass of our citizens demanding a total government takeover of health care," Sullivan told hundreds of doctors at the opening of the American Medical Assn.'s annual meeting.
"I doubt that many in this room today would welcome that development," he added.
Sullivan said that health care accounted for about 12% of the gross national product in 1990.
Sullivan has been an ally of the AMA on issues such as trying to keep tobacco out of the hands of minors, but he has opposed the organization on such matters as a proposed restructuring of Medicare fees that would reduce payments to doctors for many procedures.
Possible restrictions for health-care professionals infected with the AIDS virus was among AIDS-related issues expected to be considered by the 300,000-member AMA's policy-making House of Delegates.
The House of Delegates also was to discuss whether doctors should undergo regular testing for the AIDS virus, an increasingly volatile issue with revelations about patients getting the virus from their doctors or dentists.
Outgoing AMA President John C. Tupper said AIDS "certainly will be the overriding public health issue" considered by the 438-member House of Delegates at the five-day gathering.
The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, an activist group that has become known for using civil disobedience to gain attention, planned to show up today to protest what it considers improper AIDS-related measures being considered by the medical association.