APA and Major Medical Organizations Express Concerns about Senate Health Care Bill, Call for Transparent Process

ARLINGTON, Va. June 15, 2017 — Six of the nation’s largest medical organizations, including the American Psychiatric Association, today sent a letter to Senate leaders expressing serious concerns about proposed health care legislation and the secretive process under which it is being drafted. The letter states: “Regrettably, both the House and Senate seem to be determined to bring to a vote legislation that… [rolls] back coverage and patient protections for millions of patients.”

The six organizations emphasized the detrimental effect of repealing essential coverage and patient protections that are part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The letter opposes changes to Medicaid alone that would result in an estimated 14 million Americans losing coverage, as well as proposals that would allow states to waive the requirement that insurers cover essential health benefits. Mental health and substance use disorder treatments are among the essential health benefits required by the ACA. In all, roughly 23 million Americans would lose health coverage under a House bill under consideration in the Senate.

“Proposed legislation revamping our nation’s health care system needs to be worked on in the open, not behind closed doors,” said APA President-Elect Altha Stewart, M.D. “We are determined that the voices of patients with mental illness or substance use disorders be heard.”

The APA and other medical specialty societies, collectively representing more than 560,000 physicians and medical students, called on the Senate to include physician and patient voices in any health reform effort through a transparent process that would allow stakeholders “to provide direct input on the impact this legislation would have on patients and their physicians.” The letter also calls for open hearings and time for non-partisan analyses of any legislation before a vote is held.

“We are willing to work with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in crafting heath care legislation that provides adequate coverage to Americans,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “Allow us to lend our expertise to this important issue. It is crucial that any legislation include mental health and substance use disorder treatment.”

In addition to the APA, the letter was signed by the American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Physicians, American Osteopathic Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The same group previously shared concerns about the American Health Care Act that passed the House of Representatives in May, calling it “an inherently flawed bill that would do great harm to our patients.”

American Psychiatric Association

The American Psychiatric Association is the oldest medical association in the country founded in 1844. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 37,000 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses. APA’s vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. For more information please visit www.psychiatry.org.

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