Doctor groups worry ACA repeal will increase the uninsured

Physician groups are urging Congress to be cautious as it moves to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Groups that represent hundreds of thousands of physicians are urging the Republican-controlled Congress not to increase the number of uninsured individuals as it moves ahead with plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

In a letter sent to congressional leaders Tuesday, the head of the American Medical Association (AMA), the country’s largest physicians’ group, urged lawmakers to proceed with caution in plans to repeal the healthcare reform law that has provided health insurance to millions of Americans.

“In considering opportunities to make coverage more affordable and accessible to all Americans, it is essential that gains in the number of Americans with health insurance coverage be maintained,” wrote James L. Madara, M.D., the AMA’s CEO and executive vice president. He urged policymakers to “lay out for the American people, in reasonable detail, what will replace current policies.”

The AMA group supported the original passage of the healthcare reform law, but set off a firestorm of protests when it quickly supported the nomination of Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., who opposes the ACA, as Trump’s pick for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Republicans are wasting no time on their promise to quickly take on the ACA, as the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee introduced a resolution Tuesday that paves the way for repealing the healthcare law.

Another doctors' group, the American College of Physicians (ACP), sent a letter to Senate leaders taking an even stronger stand: asking them to oppose the repeal of the ACA. The group urged leaders to vote no on the Senate's budget resolution, saying it would result in tens of millions of Americans losing coverage, benefits and protections.

The ACP and three other physician groups—the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists—also sent a letter Monday urging the new Congress not to increase the number of uninsured and to “ensure a viable healthcare safety net.”

The Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), meanwhile, said it looked forward to working with the new Congress and President-elect Donald Trump’s administration as they consider policy alternatives to the ACA—but worried about disruptions. “Many elements of the ACA can be amended and improved with an infusion of new ideas. As Congress considers legislation that impacts the policies or financial underpinnings of the ACA, it should—above all—minimize disruptions to the nation’s healthcare delivery and payment system during any transition,” said MGMA President and CEO Halee Fischer-Wright in an emailed statement.