Doctors for America is circulating a news round-up to help keep our membership updated on the latest in health reform and ACA repeal activities. Every action that we take is making a difference in shaping the conversation in communities and in Congress, so please keep it up! Millions of people are depending on what happens in Congress in the coming weeks.
ACA Round Up – March 3, 2017
Republicans in Congress are keeping details of their health law replacement plan secret, allowing only Republican members and staffers to view the bill. Spread the word via social media that this process should be open and transparent to allow for input, hearings, and a CBO score before the first vote is cast on a bill that will affect the lives and wallets of millions of Americans.
Members of Doctors for America have talked to the offices of members of Congress across the country in the past couple of days. If you have not yet called, even on the weekend, the voice messages you leave will show Congress that we are serious about standing up for our patients.
For additional information on how to take action, please visit the DFA ACA resource page.
Following the leak of a formal draft of the House Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act last Friday, President Donald Trump made health reform a central part of his address to a joint session of Congressthis past week, touting many of the same proposals that have been previously socialized among political leadership—allowing insurers to sell plans across state lines, expanding health savings accounts and increasing competition to decrease costs. Still, some conservatives are opposed to the leaked plan, which aligns with much of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s ‘A Better Way’ plan. Trump has also endorsed tax creditsamong other reforms, deviating from the traditional conservative approach to replacement. Leaders of the conservative Republican Study Committee and House Freedom Caucus stated early in the week that they would oppose a draft of a plan that included tax credits, referring to them as a new entitlement program.
On Thursday, House Republican leadership released their formal repeal and replace bill. Unfortunately, efforts to see this bill were thwarted by top-level security measures that restricted viewing access to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Based on the leaked draft from last week, it is anticipated that the bill includes significant cuts to Medicaid, especially for those states that have expanded Medicaid under the ACA.
The bill, which is scheduled to be reviewed in committee next Wednesday, has not yet been reviewed by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which will provide a “score” on the cost as well as an estimate on how many people will receive insurance under the plan. It is unlikely that the CBO will be able to provide that score before committee discussions and votes.
Several meetings were held this past week between the administration and lawmakers to forge a path forward for replacement, including a meeting with Republican governors, some from states that had accepted Medicaid expansion and others from states that had not, with each group wanting to ensure that any new legislation would be fair. Some governors have also drafted their own proposals to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, aiming to preserve more of the law than congressional Republicans currently envisioned.
Trump also met with health insurance CEOs to discuss short-term marketplace stability and “long-term improvement” for the industry. Amidst all these meetings, plan specifics are still shrouded in secrecy as the fundamental forces reinforcing divisive opinions amongst political leadership continue to make a palatable replacement plan elusive. For some providers, delay in a concrete replacement are favored, as the timeline shifts further out for any changes to government healthcare payments.
Meanwhile, Obamacare proponents across the country attended more than 100 rallies last week, demonstrating public support for the health law. This public support is one of the reasons discussions in Congress have been so contentious to date.
The Senate Finance Committee has also voted to advance Seema Vermaas the next Centers for Medicare and Medicaid administrator. Certain members of the committee had opposed her nomination based on concerns regarding her Medicare experience, as well as statements regarding optional maternity coverage and other health policies.
And in his first address to Congress, Trump also reiterated his call to tackle high prescription drug prices. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and other Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill that would allow the importation of drugs from Canadian pharmacies, granted that certain safety standards were met. The bill is likely to face opposition from the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America and other organizations.
It is evident that those fundamental forces which have made coalescence around a single plan difficult thus far are still at play, and cast uncertainty for industry stakeholders and the health system at large while we await details of the House repeal and replace bill.
MEMBERS IN ACTION
Tell us about what you are up to! Email your updates and photos to [email protected].
DC Doctor Speaks Up for Medicaid
Dr. Sanjeev Sriram has been speaking out against efforts by Congressional Republicans to block grant Medicaid, effectively ending Medicaid as we know it. Check out what he has been up to:
Dr. America podcast: Dr America’s Valentines for Medicaid
Save My Care Bus in Florida
The Save My Care Bus rolled into Florida this week. DFA Chair Dr. Mona Mangat spoke at the Tampa stop, and Florida State Director Dr. Anna Lizama spoke in Orlando about the devastating consequences of repealing health care for millions of Americans.
Illinois Round Table Discussion
Dr. Ram Krishnamoorthi shares that he met with Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi who convened a round table discussion of policy experts, health professionals, and community stakeholders to discuss the consequences of repealing the ACA.
Louisiana Med Students Voice Concerns with Sen. Cassidy
Keanan McGonigle shares that a group of Tulane medical students have been actively engaging with Senator Cassidy’s office, given he is one of the cosponsors of a Republican ACA “replacement” bill. Earlier this month, AMSA hosted two activism trainings with medical students and community members. The students put their newly-acquired skills to use the following week at a town hall with Senator Cassidy, where they spoke about his plan for the ACA. About 200 people were allowed into the town hall – approximately 700 people were waiting outside. In addition to attending the town hall, students also visited Senator Cassidy’s office in Metairie, LA and met with his regional director. They expressed their concerns that cutting federal funding for coverage and services in a poorer state like Louisiana would make it difficult to attract highly-qualified medical professionals to care for residents. There they presented a letter signed by around 120 medical student and community members about not cutting access to or coverage for services. A summary of this outreach is available here. And, you can find student quotes in the New Orleans Advocate and WDSU.
DFA-NY Holds Happy Hour Meeting
DFA-NY/Mount Sinai held a February Happy Hour meeting where they developed actions and ideas to help #protectourpatients.
Ohio Town Hall With Rep. Marcia Fudge
Dr. Arthur Lavin shares that Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH) held a Town Hall meeting on February 25th. It was a crowd bursting at the seams, and the Ohio chapter of the DFA was there. The tone of the Town Hall was one of profound apprehension. The packed hall was attentive, and participatory. Most of the time was spent on questions and answers. Questioners rapidly created a long line, and every question was asked. One of the first questioners was a doctor, and the Congresswoman asked all the doctors at the Town Hall to stand up. Out of the hundreds present, several dozen doctors and nurses stood up, the crowd roared. Many of the questions were directed at protecting the ACA, several were patients who would be dead without it or with repeal. Hope was in the air, but with profound apprehension.
DFA Holds Town Hall in Ohio
Dr. Donald Nguyen shares that Doctors for America held a town hall event in Centerville, OH, on February 25th in partnership with Organizing for Action and other local organizations to discuss the current health care system, specifically the ACA. more than 400 people attended and many shared stories about how the ACA has impacted their lives. They discussed the possible replacement options that Republicans in Congress are proposing. While invited, Senator Rob Portman did not attend. Check out all of the amazing coverage in the Dayton Daily News, WHIO, Fox 45, ABC 22. A recording of the event is available here and a powerful video of a 13 yr old cancer survivor who spoke is here.
Utah Doctor Pens Op-Ed
Dr. Julie Day penned an op-ed for the Salt Lake Tribune where she discusses how repeal of the ACA could be a bitter pill for the GOP. Read the full piece here.
“As citizens with a lot at stake, we will have to insist on rigorous analysis of the various options that are being proposed. We will have to take the CBO seriously. We will have to insist that our economy, our health, and our futures not be destabilized to satisfy a stale, bitter, political promise to repeal Obamacare.”