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Patients, Doctors, Advocacy Groups Express Concerns about AHCA

For immediate release:
Mar 16, 2017
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WASHINGTON – Patients, doctors and several of the nation’s leading organizations that advocate for better health care for chronic disease patients joined today to express significant concerns about the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which is currently being debated in the U.S. House of Representatives.

At today’s event at the National Press Club, patients managing diabetes, congenital heart disease, and in active treatment for cancer shared their personal stories and the negative impact the current legislation would have on them and millions of Americans like them.  Leaders from the American Medical Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association urged Congress to slow down and reconsider proposed changes to the health care law so that people would not lose access to vital health care.

According to a March 13 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis, 24 million Americans could lose health insurance coverage under the proposed legislation over the next decade. In just the next year alone, the CBO estimates 14 million people would be left without access to coverage and care.

“As Congress prepares to vote on legislation with life altering consequences for patients, we urge the House and Senate to keep in mind that the numbers in the CBO analysis involve children, the elderly, the disabled, those battling mental health issues, addiction, chronic disease, cancer, as well as low- and moderate- income families,” said AMA President Andrew W. Gurman, MD. “We have repeatedly heard statements pledging to ‘not pull the rug out from under people.’ The analysis by CBO and other organizations indicates otherwise in stark terms and on multiple levels. As physicians from across the country and on the front lines, we urge the House and Senate to go back to the drawing board to develop alternative policies to provide coverage, choice and affordable health care.”

As part of the event, several patients discussed their concerns about the proposed legislation with a focus on the prospect of losing coverage that is available through the current law. Among them were Laurie Merges, a stage IIIb breast cancer patient who was able to access health insurance after Governor Kasich expanded Medicaid eligibility in Ohio to those at our below 138% of the federal poverty level. As Laurie continues undergoing treatment she discussed her fear that if the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is repealed without an immediate replacement she will lose coverage before she is finished with treatment and not be able to pay for care out of pocket.

“Medicaid expansion has provided safety net coverage for hard-working individuals so they can access proven early detection and prevention measures, as well as treatment for unexpected illnesses like cancer,” said Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “Shifting the funding burden to states that are already facing strained budgets could result in our country’s most vulnerable being left without an affordable health insurance option. Evidence shows that lack of health insurance has a direct impact on our ability to save lives from cancer.” 

“On behalf of the nearly 116 million Americans who are living with or at risk for diabetes, we stand with our patient advocacy partners today to urge Congress to protect access to adequate, affordable health care for all Americans,” said American Diabetes Association Chief Executive Officer Kevin L. Hagan. “As it currently reads, the AHCA will not provide sufficient coverage for people battling chronic illnesses such as diabetes. In addition to the millions of people who will be left uninsured, as noted in the CBO report, the proposed legislation cuts funding for innovative diabetes prevention programs, weakens the existing tax credit structure that supports affordable care and limits access to Medicaid coverage. This legislation may lower premiums for people in good health, however, it will increase costs and have a significantly negative impact on people living with diabetes.”

Another patient, Jose Sanchez, discussed his life as a budding entrepreneur with type 1 diabetes and how the ACA has made him less apprehensive about the loss of employer-provided insurance. When his income surpassed the Medicaid ceiling by a small margin, Jose found himself having to pay for his diabetes supplies out of pocket, incurring monthly costs of up to $1,100 and resorting to rationing his insulin in order to afford necessities for his two children. Access to coverage allows him to manage his diabetes without losing the ability to take care of his family and build his small business.

“Under the Republicans’ ACA repeal plan, too many Americans struggling with the burden of heart disease and stroke will now have another worry to deal with – can they continue to obtain and afford the quality health care they deserve?” said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association. “Over the next two decades nearly half of the U.S. population will be dealing with preexisting cardiovascular conditions and our health insurance system must be fine-tuned constantly to ensure affordable, accessible coverage for both those who desperately need it today and in the future.  According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, this bill does not accomplish this goal.”

American Heart Association advocate Cassidy Collins discussed how she was born with a congenital heart defect and mentioned her need for continuous specialized care. Collins has undergone dozens of procedures throughout her young life and said, given the unpredictable nature of her condition, it is critical she always have access to reliable networks. She is worried that proposed changes to the ACA will make health care coverage for ongoing treatment of her condition unaffordable and could render her “uninsurable” again. Collins called on Congress and the administration to remember those like her who are coping every day with life-threatening conditions, as they craft future health care legislation.

The groups all commit to work with lawmakers to ensure changes to the law improve affordability and quality of coverage, rather than adversely impact the ability of patients to access recommended care at a price they can afford.

An archived webcast of the press conference will be accessible at: https://scontent.webcaster4.com/web/AHCAconcerns

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Media Contact:
AMA Media & Editorial
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About the American Medical Association
The American Medical Association is the premier national organization dedicated to empowering the nation’s physicians to continually provide safer, higher quality, and more efficient care to patients and communities. For more than 165 years the AMA has been unwavering in its commitment to using its unique position and knowledge to shape a healthier future for America. For more information, visit ama-assn.org.

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