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ACP: It’s Time for Congress to Go Back to the Drawing Board to Craft Real Solutions for Our Health-Care System

Attributable to:
Nitin S. Damle, MD, MS, MACP
President, American College of Physicians

Washington, D.C., March 24, 2017 — President Trump's and House Speaker Paul Ryan's decision to pull the American Health Care Act (AHCA) from consideration reflects the reality that this flawed legislation does not have the support of the American people, or even a majority of the House of Representatives. It would have done great harm to the health of millions of Americans. It is essential that this bill—and the many harmful policies in it—be put aside for good. Specifically, Congress should once and for all abandon any effort to cap the federal contribution to Medicaid or block grant the program, end support for Medicaid expansion, repeal essential evidence-based benefits, or replace the Affordable Care Act’s income-based premium and cost-saving subsidies with regressive age-based ones that will raise premiums and deductibles for most Americans, especially, for older, poorer and sicker patients. ACP will continue to urge Congress to "do no harm" to patients by rejecting these policies.

It is also imperative that Congress approach health care legislation in a deliberate, transparent and bipartisan way, with full hearings and debate.

The American College of Physicians (ACP) urges Congress to go back to the drawing board and work with us and other patient advocates to craft meaningful legislation with real solutions for our health-care system. The goal must be to expand existing coverage and consumer protections available under the Affordable Care Act, rather than taking them away as the AHCA would have done. It is essential that Congress take this opportunity to develop legislation, with the input of ACP and other patient advocacy groups, that covers more people; maintains and builds upon existing requirements that insurers and Medicaid cover essential benefits; lowers deductibles; makes premiums more affordable; and preserves the existing federal commitment to Medicaid—including support for Medicaid expansion—while allowing for state innovation. Other issues, like reducing the crushing administrative burdens on doctors and patients, and supporting the critical role played by primary care physicians in providing accessible, high quality and cost-effective care to all types of patients, addressing the devastating opioid epidemic, and achieving innovative medical liability reform, should also be addressed in any new legislation. Coming back with a warmed over, somewhat revised version of the fatally flawed policies in the AHCA is not an option.

Congress has another chance to ensure that they "first, do no harm" to patients and make changes that actually result in improvements over current law. Our sincere hope is that Congress will join with physicians, nurses and other health professionals; consumer and patient advocacy groups; hospitals; insurers; states; employers; and others to consider approaches that will result in improvements compared to current law in coverage, access, and protections, especially for lower-income patients and those with preexisting conditions and chronic illnesses, rather than rolling them back.

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The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States. ACP members include 148,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter and Facebook.

Contact: David Kinsman, APR (202) 261-4554, dkinsman@acponline.org