August 10, 2018 (ACP) – A coalition of six powerful and influential associations of medical professionals, including the American College of Physicians, is working to change the face of American health policy by speaking with a united voice.
“As six organizations representing more than half a million physicians and medical students, we came together to provide a vigorous response to the efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act,” said Bob Doherty, ACP's senior vice president for governmental affairs and public policy. “Now we're expanding our reach into other issues that affect patients and their physicians. The hope is that we'll make a difference through the power of advocacy.”
The organizations in the coalition, known as the Group of Six, are ACP, American Academy of Pediatricians, American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Osteopathic Association, and American Psychiatric Association. Together, they represent more than 560,000 physicians and medical students.
“We're all groups of front-line physicians devoted to combining our forces and serving as an ongoing presence in the nation's capital that people will sit up and pay attention to,” Doherty said.
The coalition first came together nearly two years ago in an effort to protect the ACA from the president and Congress by promoting a do-no-harm approach. “The ACA was not repealed and replaced, and our pushback was helpful,” Doherty said.
The Group of Six did not fold up and go home. “As we've gotten more visibility, we've felt emboldened and encouraged to expand our mission,” Doherty said.
“This year, we had our latest ‘fly-in,’ where leaders of the organizations come to Washington, D.C., to meet with legislators and officials with the Department of Health and Human Services,” he said. “We've also released joint principles on issues such as the opioid epidemic and easing administrative burdens on physicians.”
In addition, the coalition issued a joint statement in July opposing the recent decision by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to suspend the risk adjustment payments to insurers participating in the individual and small-group marketplaces. CMS later reinstated the payments.
“Is the Group of Six responsible for this victory? No,” Doherty said. “But I can say the Group of Six is recognized on Capitol Hill as being an effective voice.”
In another recent joint statement, the coalition said it's concerned about the decision by the Department of Justice to not defend protections established by the Affordable Care Act that prohibit insurance companies from denying or discontinuing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions or other factors such as gender or race.
What's next? “We're working on joint principles regarding funding for critical health programs so they can get the funding they need,” Doherty said. “As the next federal fiscal year approaches, we're going to make another big push to Congress and talk about the programs that we think should get funded.”
A coalition web page is on the way, too.
“Our work,” Doherty said, “has just begun.”
The Group of Six has issued joint principles on the opioid crisis and on the administrative burdens on physicians. The group also issued a statement objecting to suspension of risk adjustment payments to insurers, a position the government subsequently rescinded.