Before senators cast a significant vote affecting the nation's health care policy, leaders from the AAFP and a coalition of other national physician organizations met in Senate offices to emphasize the importance of expanded access to health insurance coverage.
AAFP President John Meigs, M.D., of Centreville, Ala., talks with Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., before the pair appear in a live television interview on MSNBC.
On July 12, the coalition made its fifth visit to Capitol Hill since the American Health Care Act was introduced in the House earlier this year. In meetings with 29 members of Congress, several joint letters, and numerous statements and press releases, physician leaders have pressed legislators to improve the health care system as they consider changes to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The coalition that comprises the AAFP, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Osteopathic Association and the American Psychiatric Association represents more than 560,000 physicians and medical students in the United States.
Leaders of these organizations met with Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., and staff members for several other senators: Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; John Boozman, R-Ark.; Cory Gardner, R-Colo.; Rob Portman, R-Ohio; and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga. The coalition focused on Senate Republicans who are either wavering in their support of the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) or have not announced their position.
AAFP President John Meigs, M.D., of Centreville, Ala., and his coalition colleagues delivered the message that senators should scrap the BCRA and start over. Meigs cautioned that deep cuts to Medicaid in the legislation would hurt the most vulnerable patients: pregnant women and children.
"I think they were listening to our position, but we didn't get a commitment from any of them that they would vote no," Meigs said.
Meigs also appeared with Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., in a live television interview on MSNBC. Stabenow reiterated to Meigs that Democrats are willing to negotiate changes to the health care law if the proposed steep Medicaid cuts are taken off the table.
"Nobody likes this bill, but it seems as if they're going to vote for it anyway," Meigs said. "That's the frustrating part."
With Republican leaders in the Senate pledging to vote on the bill as early as next week, the physician groups came together to make another push to protect expanded health care coverage.
Their meetings with legislators and staff were essential because the bill under consideration did not take the typical path of moving through committees that could make amendments to it.
Meigs emphasized that the coalition is working for the sake of improved public health and better access to care.
"This isn't a coalition on physician payment," he said. "We're not asking for money. It's a coalition for expanded access and insurance coverage for our patients."
Meigs was encouraged by the ongoing cooperation among the physician organizations.
"Hopefully, we can continue to build on this and get together on issues we have in common," he said.
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