With debate about the future of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) continuing in Congress, the AAFP and other primary care groups are pressing legislators to focus on work to improve the law instead of political infighting.
AAFP President Michael Munger, M.D., left, talks to Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., about how to make the nation's health care law better.
AAFP President Michael Munger, M.D., of Overland Park, Kan., and representatives from other physician groups visited with legislators and their staffs on Sept. 27 to emphasize the need to maintain the advances that have been made since the ACA was implemented.
Munger and other physician leaders met with Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Jerry Moran, R-Kan., in addition to staff members working for Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and members of the Senate Finance Committee. The groups also met with staff who work for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md.
Munger discussed one of his patients who has two chronic conditions, rheumatoid arthritis and breast cancer. Before the ACA was passed, the cost to provide care for both conditions would not only have exceeded the patient's annual insurance cap, it would have approached the lifetime cap in just one year and left her to pay the remaining costs out of pocket.
"We want to make sure that patients are able to maintain their existing coverage, not encounter lifetime caps on coverage, have no (restrictions due to) pre-existing conditions and maintain Medicaid expansion," Munger told AAFP News. "These are our core principles."
Munger was optimistic that legislators will look at ways to reduce cost-sharing requirements on behalf of patients while protecting guaranteed coverage minimums.
Although previous attempts to repeal the ACA have failed, one Senate staff member told the physician groups that another attempt could come in January. At the same time, the staff member noted that the most recent repeal effort received no support from any medical group.
Munger acknowledged that discussions with legislators about ACA repeal efforts consumed substantial time for physicians who are involved in advocacy efforts.
"There are other issues that need to be addressed, including administrative simplification and simplification of the upcoming Quality Payment Program," Munger said. "However, when there is an issue like this that affects so many of our patients, we can't take our eyes off the ball."
Munger said that in conversations with individual legislators, the focus is beginning to shift away from repealing existing law and more toward ways to improve it. But if another repeal measure is introduced, physician groups are poised to campaign together against any reduction in quality of care or increase in patient costs.
"You have to be in a coalition when it's something this big," Munger said. "This is not done. We'll continue to work on behalf of our patients."
The coalition that met with legislators includes 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. Together they represent more than 560,000 physicians and medical students nationally.
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