Doctors jump into political fray with advocacy group to protect Medicare, ACA

Doctor with patient
A group of more than 50 doctors are getting political to protect Medicare and the ACA. (Getty/wutwhanfoto)

A group of more than 50 doctors from around the U.S. are launching a national effort and hope to mobilize other physicians and engage voters in a political advocacy campaign aimed at protecting Medicare and affordable healthcare.

The doctors announced Thursday they are joining the Committee to Protect Medicare and Affordable Care (CTP), which will be led by emergency doctor Rob Davidson, M.D., who ran unsuccessfully for Congress last year.

Davidson, a Democrat who ran for a House seat in Michigan, said he will split his time between practicing medicine and volunteering as executive director of the Chicago-based committee. As a candidate running unsuccessfully against incumbent U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, a Republican, Davidson’s central issue was protecting access to affordable healthcare. Davidson is an emergency physician in a small rural hospital in Fremont, Michigan.

Rob Davidson
Rob Davidson, M.D. (CTP)

The grassroots organization of doctors and other healthcare providers said they are launching the national effort to protect the Medicare program and speak up against proposed cuts. It also supports efforts to make healthcare more affordable and expanding it to more people. The group is not taking a position on Medicare for All proposals that would create a single-payer system.

According to an announcement, the committee said it will hold the Trump administration and politicians in Congress accountable when they threaten to cut Medicare, take away healthcare for people with pre-existing conditions and refuse to take meaningful action to reduce high prescription drug costs, among other health priorities.

Doctors from 14 states, ranging from Maryland and Michigan to Florida, Iowa and New Mexico, have joined the committee.

“Doctors see how devastating it can be when patients can’t afford to buy medications or pay for a potentially lifesaving test, and many of us realized we can’t be silent any longer, not when the Trump administration is actively trying to take healthcare away from millions of our fellow Americans,” Davidson said in an announcement.

“Americans are worried that for-profit drug corporations will continue jacking up prices and big insurance companies will deny healthcare for people with pre-existing conditions, which is half of the entire country. We want ordinary Americans to know doctors are on their side, and together we will stand up to politicians who put drug and insurance company profits ahead of people’s health,” he said.

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The committee is a 501(c)(4) organization meaning it is non-profit and operated exclusively to promote social welfare.

The committee said it will work to protect Medicare and the Affordable Care Act and push for Medicare expansion. The group said doctors will use town halls and public events, social media, opportunities through news outlets and direct advocacy to share their frontline stories, and fact check misinformation and distortions about healthcare.

“Access to affordable health care should not start at age 65, with Medicare. It should be available to people of all ages,” said Mary Kemen, M.D, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who has served for, among other organizations, Doctors Without Borders. “The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not control medical costs and ensure access for all patients. The current administration's proposed cuts to Medicare and Medicaid would further erode Americans’ unaffordable healthcare.”

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Policymakers in Washington need to put people and patients first, said Farhan Bhatti, M.D., CEO and medical director of Care Free Medical in Lansing, Michigan, which treats thousands of uninsured and under-insured people in Mid-Michigan every year.

“Doctors across America are increasingly concerned that powerful drug and insurance corporations and Washington politicians are taking aim at the healthcare system that improves the lives of hundreds of millions of our fellow Americans,” said Richard Bruno, M.D., a family physician in Baltimore, Maryland.

“Our health insurance system isn’t working the way it should for ordinary Americans. I see many patients who are worried about escalating costs, and what tomorrow will bring. Healthcare is at the heart of strengthening America for everyone and doctors are speaking out now because we’re deeply concerned that our patients will be the victims as Washington is taking potshots at healthcare for political reasons.”

The committee, which was first active in the 2017 debate in Congress over the ACA, said it is mobilizing in several states critical to the national healthcare debate, including Michigan, Nevada, Iowa, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Arizona.