Prominent hospitals, doctors and health groups are speaking out against the new Republican health care proposal, the American Health Care Act (AHCA).
The replacement for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more commonly referred to as Obamacare, was unveiled Tuesday and met immediate criticism.
A letter written to Congress signed by seven hospitals and health systems, including the American Hospital Association (AHA), Children’s Hospital Association and the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems, said the groups “cannot support the American Health Care Act” because they are are “very concerned” that the draft written as is will result in millions of Americans losing coverage.
“As organizations that take care of every individual who walks through our doors, both due to our mission and our obligations under federal law, we are committed to ensuring health care coverage is available and affordable for all,” the groups write.
The AHA also wrote a letter of its own, signed by CEO Richard Pollack, urging lawmakers to review the draft more closely before signing it into law. Pollack called for the AHCA to receive a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score. The CBO is a nonpartisan office that analyzes and makes reports relating to costs for legislation in Congress.
“Lacking that level of analysis and needed transparency, we urge that Congress should wait until an estimate is available before proceeding with formal consideration,” Pollack wrote.
Additionally, “As lawmakers work to re-examine this law, patients and the caregivers who serve them across America are depending on Congress to make continued coverage a priority. We believe that any changes to the ACA must be guided by ensuring that we continue to provide health care coverage for the tens of millions of Americans who have benefitted from the law. We are pleased that so many in Congress also recognize the need to preserve patient coverage.
“We believe the legislation needs to be reviewed through this lens, and carefully evaluated regarding its impact on both individuals and the ability of hospitals and health systems — which are the backbone of the nation’s health care safety net in teens of our ability to care for all of those who walk through our doors.”
Low-income and older members of the population will be adversely affected by the proposed plan, with analysts suggesting a rise in premiums for those in their fifties and sixties.
Both the group letter and Pollack’s letter also express their concerns about limiting the expansion of Medicaid, pointing out that this will negatively impact our most “vulnerable populations,” including children, the elderly and people with disabilities.
Experts have said the plan will leave millions of Americans uninsured. A report from S&P Global Ratings released Tuesday stated that, under the new proposed plan, “We expect a decline in enrollment in the individual (2 million–4 million) and Medicaid (4 million–6 million) segments, resulting in a decline in premiums.”
And while younger people will probably experience lower premiums, older adults will likely see costs skyrocket. Under Obamacare, insurers can charge a 64-year-old three times more for a policy than a 21-year-old. The Republicans’ proposed plan will allow insurers to charge the older population five times more than younger people.
America’s Essential Hospitals also released a statement announcing that it “remains deeply concerned about the legislation in its current form.”
Like Pollack, the organization is concerned that the AHCA has not received a CBO score.
Cutting federal support for Medicaid and imposing per-capita caps could have an unforeseen financial impact on hospitals, according to the statement, which could mean layoffs at hospitals:
“These changes alone could result in deep funding cuts for essential hospitals, which now operate with little or no margin. Our hospitals could not sustain such reductions without scaling back services or eliminating jobs.”
The letter urges Congress to “halt action” until the CBO conducts a review.
Nancy LeaMond, executive vice president of AARP, issued a statement as well, announcing that her company “opposes this legislation.” She cited the significant rise in premiums the older population will be faced with under the proposed act.
“This plan goes in the opposite direction” of making health care affordable for the elderly, LeaMond stated.
She also raised concerns about limiting Medicaid expansion.
“Although no one believes the current health care system is perfect, this harmful legislation would make health care less secure and less affordable,” said LeaMond.
The American Medical Association (AMA) penned a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the Committee on Ways and Means and Committee on Energy and Commerce, also rejecting the AHCA.
“While we agree that there are problems with the ACA that must be addressed,” the letter states, “we 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.”
Under the new plan, Americans will no longer be required to purchase medical insurance but would provide a tax credit between $2,000 and $4,000, depending on the individual’s age, with older people receiving a higher credit. The amount does not vary by state, making the credit more valuable in areas with lower health care costs.
While the AMA states that it does in fact support the idea of using tax credits, the amount individuals receive must “be sufficient to enable one to afford quality coverage” and should be tied to a person’s income.
“This structure provides the greatest chance that those of the least means are able to purchase coverage,” the AMA wrote. “We believe credits inversely related to income, rather than age as proposed in the committee’s legislation, not only result in greater numbers of people insured but are a more efficient use of tax-payer resources.”