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May 5, 2017

'A crucial first step' or 'a debacle'? How industry stakeholders are reacting to the AHCA

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Health care industry stakeholders were quick to react to the House's passage of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) on Thursday, with many expressing disapproval while also citing a need to improve the health insurance market, Becker's Hospital Review reports.

Health care providers largely criticize House bill

Several health care provider groups called on the Senate to restart the health reform debate rather than taking up the AHCA.

Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association, in a statement said, "America's hospitals and health systems are deeply disappointed in the House passage of the AHCA because it will jeopardize health coverage for millions of Americans." He added, "We urge the Senate to restart and reset the discussion in a manner that provides coverage to those who need it and ensures that the most vulnerable are not left behind."

The House just passed ACA repeal. Now what?

American Medical Association (AMA) President Andrew Gurman in a statement also warned against coverage losses that would ensue under the bill. But Gurman also said "action is needed … to improve the current health care insurance system." He continued, "The AMA urges the Senate and the [Trump] administration to work with physician, patient, hospital, and other provider groups to craft bipartisan solutions so all American families can access affordable and meaningful coverage, while preserving the safety net for vulnerable populations."

American Nurses Association President Pamela Cipriano said the House vote to advance the AHCA ignored calls from nurses throughout the country who had "expressed their strong disapproval of this bill," as well as "the almost 15 million people in the United States with pre-existing conditions who will now have no protection from insurer discrimination."

Federation of American Hospitals President and CEO Chip Kahn in a statement also expressed disappointment in the bill's passage, but added that the group is "committed to engaging in a forward-looking dialogue with policymakers as the process moves to the Senate."

Health care reform beyond the ACA

Similarly, Jeffrey Hulburt, president and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Care Organization, said policymakers should "continue to work to ensure that problems identified in the ACA are addressed, but in a thoughtful way that guarantees affordable coverage for all Americans."

Michael Dowling, CEO of the New York-based health system Northwell Health, had a more sharply critical reaction: "To me, this is not a reform. This is just a debacle." He added that because the AHCA could increase the U.S. uninsured rate, hospitals that treat low-income patients "will just be drowning completely" if the bill becomes law.

Insurance industry reacts

America's Health Insurance Plans President Marilyn Tavenner in a statement said, "We stand ready to work with members of the Senate and all policymakers, offering our recommendations for how this bill can be improved to ensure the private market delivers affordable coverage for all Americans."

Other insurers called on the administration and Congress to work to stabilize the ACA's exchange markets.

Molina Healthcare said, "While the debate on AHCA now moves to the Senate, Congress and the administration must ensure that the [ACA's exchanges] are stabilized through at least 2018."

Other industry stakeholders react

Other industry stakeholders had a mixed reaction, with some characterizing the bill as a good first step towards repealing the ACA, and others raising concerns about the bill's effects on consumers and small businesses.

The National Federation of Independent Business called the AHCA's passage "a crucial first step toward health care reform."

However, Amanda Ballantyne, national director of the Main Street Alliance, said the bill would "leav[e] small-business owners in a terrible position, one they were all too familiar with before the ACA: unable to afford premium hikes year to year, unsure their employees will be healthy and able to work, and uncertain of the future of their businesses" (Gooch, Becker's Hospital Review, 5/4; Abelson/Thomas, New York Times, 5/4; American College of Physicians statement, 5/4; Vladimirov, The Hill, 5/4; Humer, Reuters, 5/4).

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