Policy

AMA tells Congress to slow down on Obamacare repeal

The letter, signed by AMA Executive Vice President and CEO Dr. James Madara, warned against throwing millions of people off the insurance rolls. Follow the money.

The 115th Congress was sworn in Tuesday morning and, as promised, Republicans have already set in motion their plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

By the afternoon, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming) had already introduced a budget resolution to set the stage for undoing President Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment. According to CNBC, the resolution allows the Senate to go through the reconciliation process, circumventing any later filibuster attempt by Democrats.

While Republicans have voted to repeal Obamacare at least 60 times in the past, they finally will have a sympathetic ear in the White House when Donald Trump is sworn in on Jan. 20. Trump has promised a full repeal, but also has said he wants to retain certain elements.

Rep. Tom Price (R-Georgia), Trump’s pick to run the Department of Health and Human Services, has long been a critic of the ACA, and chairs the House Budget Committee. Depending on when he resigns his seat to move over to HHS, Price can help assure a quick repeal vote in the House.

But hold on, cautioned one of the most powerful healthcare lobby groups in the country. Don’t repeal Obamacare without a viable replacement plan ready to go, the American Medical Association said in a letter to congressional leaders on Tuesday. (Price, an orthopedic surgeon, is a member of the AMA.)

The letter, signed by AMA Executive Vice President and CEO Dr. James Madara, warned against throwing millions of people off the insurance rolls. Madara wrote:

Health system reform is an ongoing quest for improvement. The AMA supported passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) because it was a significant improvement on the status quo at that time. We continue to embrace the primary goal of that law — to make high quality, affordable healthcare coverage accessible to all Americans. We also recognize that the ACA is imperfect and there a number of issues that need to be addressed. As such, we welcome proposals, consistent with the policies of our House of Delegates, to make coverage more affordable, provide greater choice, and increase the number of those insured.

In considering opportunities to make coverage more affordable and accessible to all Americans, it is essential that gains in the number of Americans with health insurance coverage be maintained.

Consistent with this core principle, we believe that before any action is taken through reconciliation or other means that would potentially alter coverage, policymakers should lay out for the American people, in reasonable detail, what will replace current policies. Patients and other stakeholders should be able to clearly compare current policy to new proposals so they can make informed decisions about whether it represents a step forward in the ongoing process of health reform.

The AMA historically has been among the staunchest defenders of the status quo in healthcare, but the wider insured population that Obamacare brought has meant more people seeking reimbursable healthcare services. The ACA has been a gravy train for more than a few healthcare providers. Follow the money.

Photo: Flickr user martinpickard