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Group of Six Takes Health Care Concerns Straight to Capitol Hill
ACP participates in advocacy effort, meeting with legislators on funding priorities, health care coverage and prescription drugs prices
Feb. 22, 2019 (ACP) – With the recent launch of its website, a lobbying trip to Capitol Hill and a lively press conference, the Group of Six – an alliance of six health organizations, including the American College of Physicians – is on the move.
Formed close to two years ago, the Group of Six also includes the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Osteopathic Association and the American Psychiatric Association. Together, the group represents more than 560,000 physicians and medical students united in the goal of improving health care for all Americans.
During a recent “fly-in” to Washington, D.C., group members met with legislators about three key advocacy issues: improving access to health care, reigning in rising prescription drug prices and increasing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funding for health care issues, especially research into firearms violence prevention.
“There was a lot of receptivity by Congress,” said Dr. Ana Maria López, ACP's president, who represented the College at the fly-in. Still, she said, “this is not a one-and-done – this is an ongoing process.”
On access to care, the group's overriding fear is that certain protections established by the Affordable Care Act will be overturned – including one that prohibits insurance companies from denying or discontinuing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.
“As an oncologist, I hear patients that say how grateful they are that having cancer doesn't preclude them from getting coverage all the time,” López said. “Any changes to insurance should be about increasing access to care, not decreasing access.”
Among its requests, the Group of Six is calling for premium and cost-sharing subsidies that are sufficient to make coverage affordable and accessible, especially for vulnerable patients.
On the issue of funding CDC research on firearms violence protection, “we know that for any public health problem, studying it is the best way to develop the best approaches for prevention,” Lopez said.
Specifically, the group is asking that the CDC budget include $50 million in new funding for public health research to study firearms-related morbidity and mortality prevention. That would be part of a requested $7.8 billion CDC budget for fiscal year 2020. The group also wants Congress to continue to maintain the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which supports data collection that allows states to make informed decisions on how to use health care resources.
On the rising cost of prescription drugs, the group told legislators that rising prices and high deductible health plans make medications unaffordable for many patients. To paint a more accurate picture of this issue, group members shared stories with legislators about how escalating prescription drug prices affect patients daily.
As López said, “patients often take four or five drugs, and each has a separate form to request assistance from pharmaceutical companies.” The development and implementation of a standardized form could dramatically improve administrative burdens associated with these tasks and help patients get the life-saving medications they need, she said.
The goal is to keep this conversation going.
“We plan on staying in communication with legislators and providing additional examples of the issues we called attention to,” López said, adding that all ACP members can play a role in pushing these issues forward.
“We see first-hand how all of these issues affect our patients,” she said, “and it's really important for individual physicians to reflect on this and engage with state and local legislators to help develop solutions.”
The new website of the Group of Six includes more on these issues and other priorities and recommendations.