Last week's unveiling of G.O.P. legislation designed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) triggered a flurry of concerns and criticisms from healthcare industry sectors.
The proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA) would eliminate Obamacare's individual mandate and put in place refundable tax credits for individuals to purchase health insurance. It also proposes restructuring Medicaid and defunding Planned Parenthood. However, the bill seeks to maintain protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions and to permit children to remain on their parents' insurance plans until they reach the age of 26.
As of last Friday, the proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA) had cleared two committees in the U.S. House of Representatives; a final House vote on the bill is expected the week of March 20.
In a letter to leaders of the House committees that will mark up the AHCA, the American Medical Association (AMA) rejected the ACA replacement bill. In the letter, AMA CEO and Executive Vice President James L. Madara, MD, stated that his organization "cannot support the AHCA as drafted because of the expected decline in health
insurance coverage and the potential harm it would cause to vulnerable patient populations."
In particular, the AMA, the nation's largest physicians' group representing more than 220,000 doctors, residents, and medical students, objected to the bill's proposed restructuring of Medicaid, claiming it "would limit states’ ability to respond to changes in service demands and threaten coverage for people with low incomes."
The AMA's position was also outlined in a statement issued by Andrew W. Gurman, MD, AMA president.
Meanwhile, the American Hospital Association (AHA), which counts 5,000 hospitals among its members, also opposed the AHCA. In a news release, Rick Pollack, AHA president and CEO, stated that the AHA "cannot support The American Health Care Act in its current form." The AHA stated that it would be difficult to evaluate the bill without coverage estimates by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
Echoing AMA apprehension over proposed Medicaid restructuring, Pollack stated that the AHA feared the bill "will have the effect of making significant reductions in a program that provides services to our most vulnerable populations, and already pays providers significantly less than the cost of providing care."
Although Pollack lauded recent Congessional efforts to address behavioral health issues, including the growing opioid abuse epidemic, he stressed that "significant progress in these areas is directly related to whether individuals have coverage. And, we have already seen clear evidence of how expanded coverage is helping to address these high-priority needs."
Also seeking adequate Medicaid funding in the AHCA was America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), a national association whose 1,300 members provide coverage for healthcare and related services to more than 200 million Americans.
In a letter to two key House committees, AHIP President and CEO Marilyn Tavenner stated that "Medicaid health plans are at the forefront of providing coverage for and access to behavioral health services and treatment for opioid use disorders, and insufficient funding could jeopardize the progress being made on these important public health fronts."
However, AHIP commended the proposed legislation for its "number of positive steps to help stabilize the market and create a bridge to a reformed market during the 2018 and 2019 transition period" and "pledged to work collaboratively to shape the final legislation."
"AHIP members are committed to reducing cost growth by using value-based care arrangements and other innovative programs to address chronic illnesses and better manage the care of the highest-need patients," Tavenner concluded.
In a statement on Friday, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, MD, committing his agency to using its regulatory authority to create greater flexibility in the Medicaid program for states, including "a review of existing waiver procedures to provide states the impetus and freedom to innovate and test new ideas to improve access to care and health outcomes."