Thursday, May 25, 2017

APA to U.S. Senate: Reject the American Health Care Act in Favor of Bipartisan Solutions

If the Affordable Care Act (ACA) replacement bill that narrowly passed the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this month becomes law, it will leave some 14 million more people uninsured next year than under the current law and 23 million more in 2026, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) announced Wednesday. APA responded promptly to the news, renewing its call for the U.S. Senate to reject the ACA replacement bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), in favor of a bipartisan solution. 

“We are deeply troubled that 23 million Americans could lose access to health care,” past APA President Maria A. Oquendo, M.D., Ph.D., said in a press release. “Taking away their coverage is unconscionable.” (Oquendo recently took this message to Capitol Hill, where she and leaders from several other medical associations met with Republican senators to discuss their opposition to the AHCA.)

Among other things, APA is concerned about what changes proposed in the AHCA would mean for people with mental illness and substance use disorders; an estimated 1.3 million Americans with serious mental illness and 2.8 million Americans with substance use disorders gained coverage for the first time under the expansion of Medicaid in the ACA.

The AHCA, which passed the House on May 4 by a margin of 217-213, is currently under consideration in the Senate, where it is expected to undergo significant changes before it comes up for a vote.

“Congress made much progress over the past three years, culminating in the passage last year of the bipartisan, bicameral 21st Century Cures Act,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “This current bill reverses those gains. We stand ready to work with both parties to ensure adequate health care for all Americans.”

APA has previously offered the following recommendations to lawmakers:
  • Maintain the current level of coverage for mental health and substance use disorders in health insurance plans. 
  • Maintain safeguards in private insurance by specifically prohibiting the following: 
    • Denying coverage based upon a pre-existing condition; 
    • Establishing lifetime and annual dollar limits on essential health benefits; and
    • Discrimination based upon health status, including a history of mental illness or substance abuse. 
  • Any efforts to restructure Medicaid must ensure sufficient funding for mental health and substance use issues and not shift the cost to states in a way that forces them to tighten eligibility requirements, provider reimbursement, or benefits.  
  • Ensure full implementation and enforcement of the bipartisan Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which calls on insurers to offer coverage for mental health care on par with coverage for any other ailment.
“As the Senate debates reforms to the health system, services for people with mental health and substance use disorders—and their families—must be maintained. The APA urges the Senate to reject the American Health Care Act in favor of bipartisan legislation,” the release noted.

Write Your Senators and Urge Them to Start Over on AHCA

APA members are urged to contact their senators to express opposition to the AHCA and instruct the Senate to set aside the House bill and start over on new legislation that does not put at risk health care for people with mental health/substance use disorders. To make such communication quick and easy, visit the APA Advocacy Center.

(Image: Mikhail Kolesnikov/Shutterstock)


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