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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

AMA Speaks Out: GOP Healthcare Bill Violates 'No Harm' Rule

Last week, we reported on some key facts surrounding the then-not-yet-released Senate GOP healthcare bill. The bill has since been made available for public consumption (and criticism).

The Senate’s Bill
The new bill, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 (BCRA), aims to roll back and repeal much of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including many of the various tax provisions present in the Obamacare legislation. In addition to the bill’s original changes, Senate Republicans released an updated version this past Monday (the 26th) to include a provision meant to replace the individual mandate (instead of a fine, those whose insurance lapses will be locked out of coverage for six months) and close a loophole that could’ve hurt the health insurance market. You can find a breakdown of these changes, as well as the other key provisions of the BCRA, over at Business Insider.

To say this bill has been met with controversy is putting it lightly. Democrats and many other supporters of the ACA are staunchly set against the BCRA because of the conservative direction in which it’ll take our country’s healthcare. Additionally, a number of Republican representatives are against the bill because they don’t find it conservative enough.

What the AMA Has to Say
In a somewhat surprising twist, the American Medical Association also had something to say about the BCRA this past Monday. After researching and taking the bill into consideration, the AMA, one of the largest healthcare lobbying groups in the US, announced its opposition to the BCRA in an open letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY).

AMA Executive Vice President and CEO James Madara, MD had this to say about the new bill:
"Medicine has long operated under the precept of Primum non nocere, or ‘first, do no harm.’ The draft legislation violates that standard on many levels.”

The new bill affects Medicaid funding as well as downsizes subsidies individuals can apply for to purchase health insurance. The bill plans to end the ACA’s Medicaid expansion by 2024 as well as put a cap on how much the federal government spends on the program overall. About this, Madara wrote:
“It seems highly likely [that the changes] will expose low and middle income patients to higher costs and greater difficulty in affording care…[This change would] limit states’ ability to address the healthcare needs of their most vulnerable citizens. It would be a serious mistake to lock into place another arbitrary and unsustainable formula that will be extremely difficult and costly to fix.”

The BCRA also contains language that would block Medicaid reimbursements to defund Planned Parenthood for one year. On blocking funding for the women’s health provider, Madara had this to say:
“We also continue to oppose Congressionally-mandated restrictions on where lower income women (and men) may receive otherwise covered health care services - in this case the prohibition on individuals using their Medicaid coverage at clinics operated by Planned Parenthood.”

You can read the AMA’s full letter to the US Senate here, but ultimately, the message it’s meant to deliver is this:
“These provisions violate longstanding AMA policy on patients’ freedom to choose their providers and physicians’ freedom to practice in the setting of their choice.”



It might be too early to say, but given the tumultuous conditions under which the BCRA has come to light, it’s unlikely the bill will pass. Which means we still live in the land of the ACA and may remain here for longer than some Congress members (and citizens) may like. So while we’re still here, know that ACAwise is here too for you! We’ve got year-round compliance tracking to keep your ACA data in order for the next filing season and we’ve got some of the friendliest folks ever on our US-based customer support team to help you through everything!


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