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ACP to Congress: Do No Harm to Our Patients

Along with other medical groups, College asks senators to protect recent health care advances

Feb. 10, 2017 (ACP) -- As the future of the Affordable Care Act teeters on the political edge, the American College of Physicians and four other medical organizations converged on Capitol Hill in early February to send a powerful joint message to Congress: Protect patient access to health care.

"As a primary care internist, I see first-hand how devastating it would be for my hard-working patients to return to the days when they had to go without health insurance," said Dr. Nitin S. Damle, president of ACP. "We urge Congress to, first, do no harm to my patients by rolling back the positive gains we've seen in people's ability to seek health care and have access to care that translates into a healthy life."

Representatives of the five organizations -- ACP, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and American Osteopathic Association -- met Feb. 2 with U.S. senators and their staff members. Together, the groups represent more than 500,000 physicians and medical students.

The organizations are united in their belief that any changes to the ACA must not reverse the advances of the past few years.

"Our talking points included the gains in coverage, with 20 million Americans being newly insured, including Medicaid expansion in 31 states, the ban of lifetime or annual limits on coverage, insurability with pre-existing conditions, maintaining primary care services without out-of-pocket costs and ensuring adequate premium and cost-sharing subsidies to make insurance coverage affordable," said Damle, who was one of ACP's representatives in the Capitol Hill meetings.

Other topics discussed "included reducing the administrative burden for patients and physicians and continuing to support investments in new delivery models, such as the Patient Centered Medical Home and Accountable Care Organizations, and other initiatives from the Innovation Center at CMS," he said.

In meeting with the senators, the organizations' representatives supported their case by turning to the power of personal stories from their patients. They also made it clear that, as a joint statement they issued put it, "currently insured individuals should not lose their coverage as a result of any action or inaction by policymakers."

"Overall, there seemed to be a movement away from 'repeal and replace' to repair among many Republicans," Damle said after the meetings.

For example, some senator's staff members were "generally supportive of all our principles and wanted to seek a path to repair instead of replace," Damle said. "This, I think, is the direction that we may be headed as no viable replacement plan has been put forward."

Indeed, one senator "was optimistic that most of the ACA would be kept intact, with hopefully some potential for improvement with the help of Republicans," he said.

Specifically, the organizations asked that Congress:

  • Not increase the number of uninsured
  • Ensure a viable health care safety net
  • Ensure vital patient protections in the health insurance marketplace
  • Ensure sufficient premium assistance and cost-sharing reduction subsidies
  • Protect the individual and small-group markets
In their meetings with senators and staff members, representatives of ACP and the other medical groups also stressed the importance of their being able to review detailed plans for modifications or improvements before Congress votes on any ACA reform. "This can provide a valuable opportunity for analysis, review and input by our organizations and other stakeholders, by members of Congress, and by independent and nonpartisan analysts," they said in a joint statement. "Our intention is to evaluate such proposals based on whether they preserve and improve on the essential coverage, benefits and consumer protections .. and on access to care for both insured and uninsured individuals, children and families."

In a related move, the five medical organizations also issued a statement declaring that they stand united in favor of protecting women's health.

The statement, issued Jan. 25, said that the groups "want America's women to know we're here for you, and we're dedicated to protecting important health care guarantees."

It noted that the organizations stand behind four key goals:

  • Ensure women unencumbered access to affordable, evidence-based health care throughout their lifespan
  • Oppose political interference in the patient-provider relationship
  • Protect and retain current benefits and coverage for women, including preventive care and banning gender rating
  • Protect Medicaid coverage and financing, ensuring consistent treatment of qualified providers
More Information

Recommendations on potential changes to the Affordable Care Act, made jointly by the five medical organizations, are available on the ACP website.

The joint statement on women's health is available on the ACP website.

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