As Congress considers another attempt to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), the AAFP and other physician groups are warning about flaws in the latest legislative proposals.
A coalition of physician organizations that includes the AAFP sent a letter to House leaders(2 page PDF) on April 26 to oppose reported compromises involving the American Health Care Act (AHCA)(www.congress.gov) that would undercut substantial progress that has been made in expanding health care. A floor vote on the latest proposal could be scheduled as soon as next week.
The coalition voiced strong opposition to the AHCA when it was introduced last month, calling attention to a review(www.cbo.gov) by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that said the bill's passage would lead to 24 million fewer individuals having health insurance in 2026.
The American Psychiatric Association recently joined the coalition, which, in addition to the AAFP, includes the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Osteopathic Association.
The letter said the coalition's members see firsthand the importance of health care coverage and access to affordable, high-quality health care.
"This experience with the health care system is why our organizations strongly oppose the compromises that have been recently reported," the coalition wrote. "These compromises are built on the flawed foundation of the AHCA, which would result in millions of Americans -- and, according to the CBO, over 7 million with employer-sponsored insurance -- losing their coverage."
The latest proposal would make substantial spending cuts that would reduce Medicaid expansion. The coalition is concerned that it also would increase the cost of health care for individuals older than age 50 and allow for gender-rating by enabling states to opt out of maternity care coverage.
Another major consequence of allowing states to opt out of important benefit and patient protection provisions in the current law would be possible restrictions on coverage for addiction treatment, a shortsighted step given the nation's need to address the opioid abuse epidemic.
The proposal also could force individuals with multiple chronic conditions into underfunded high-risk insurance pools sponsored by individual states.
"Insurers in such states would once again be allowed to charge unaffordable premiums to people with pre-existing conditions based on their individual health risks, and decline to cover 10 categories of essential services including prescription drugs, physician and hospital visits, preventive services, and mental and behavioral health benefits," the letter stated.
The letter reminded legislators that the coalition is ready to work with Congress and the administration to improve the nation's health care system.
"We urge Congress to reject these 'compromises' and instead focus on enacting policies that improve upon current law, thus ensuring that more people have access to affordable health care coverage," the coalition wrote.
Among the priorities that Congress should focus on are
- ensuring stability in the health insurance market,
- adequately funding the Children's Health Insurance Program,
- supporting more preventive care measures,
- reducing pharmaceutical costs,
- reforming liability laws and
- reducing the administrative burden on physicians.
The AAFP has made it easy for members to contact their legislators about proposed changes to health care legislation by launching a Speak Out campaign.