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APA, Allied Organizations Urge Senate to Dismiss Obamacare Repeal Bill

     

The American Psychiatric Association cosigned a letter today with five other medical societies addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, urging the Senate to forgo a Republican-led effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in favor of real, bi-partisan health care reform.

The letter decries the hurried, secretive manner in which the ACA repeal legislation is being drafted, first in the House and now in the Senate. No draft language of the Senate bill has yet been made public. The result is a piece of significant health care legislation that doesn’t include patient or physician voices.

This is deeply concerning on several levels, not the least of which that the APA and other signers of the Senate letter, will have no chance to provide input on the potential impact that this legislation could have on their patients and physicians. We firmly believe that this bill should undergo the same level of public and congressional scrutiny that is traditional for legislation of this magnitude. Only after public hearings and committee markups should this bill be allowed to advance to the Senate floor for a vote.

A repeal of the ACA has the potential to impact millions of Americans from all levels of society in every corner of the country. The potential for such a broad impact on the American people means that independent, non-partisan analysis of the bill, such as a “CBO Score” from the Congressional Budget Office, should precede any vote. An open, deliberative, and transparent approach is the only responsible way to make changes to a law with as far-reaching implications as the ACA.

The membership of the APA is made up of thousands of physicians who are on the front lines providing mental health care services to millions of patients every day. Many of them and their patients have experienced first-hand the positive impact that health care, and access to affordable, high quality care can play in people’s lives. Many have also recall a time when discriminatory insurance practices based on age, gender or pre-existing conditions were the norm, and those with mental health and substance use disorders were denied coverage entirely.

The bill in development in the Senate will reportedly include many harmful policies in the House bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), that could reverse the gains made in access and affordability of health care in the last 10 years. Any law that caps, cuts and block grants federal contributions to Medicare, and ends the higher federal match for Medicare expansion states will result in a loss of coverage for tens of millions of Americans. Similarly, allowing states to waive the requirement that insurers cover essential benefits will result in plans available in the individual insurance market in many states that offer skimpy and inadequate coverage. Prescription drugs, physician and hospital visits, cancer screening, mental health and substance use disorder treatments, maternity care and contraception are among the services that may no longer be covered.

We identified these harmful policies and spelled out why they will be so damaging to patients in this country in our letter to the Senate. The APA stands ready to help the Senate in a health care reform effort that is open, deliberative, transparent, and bipartisan in its goal to make health care accessible and affordable for everyone.

What APA is Doing For You

This blog post is part of an occasional series highlighting how APA advocates on your behalf to support the profession of psychiatry and put our interests before key policymakers.

     

Post by Saul Levin M.D., M.P.A.

Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., FRCP-E, is APA's CEO and Medical Director. Read Dr. Levin's full biography

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