Medical community says ‘back to the drawing board’ with Senate GOP version of reform bill

The Senate side of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.
The consensus of the medical community: Send the GOP Senate proposal back to the drawing board.

If they didn’t like the healthcare bill passed by the House in May, groups that represent doctors, hospitals and patients had no kinder words for Senate Republicans' draft version of their bill unveiled yesterday to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. 

“This is nothing more than a futile attempt to put lipstick on a pig,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, in a statement.

The Senate’s draft (PDF), titled the "Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017," which was once promised as a complete revamp of the bill passed by the House, instead looks too much like it and will result in negative consequences for people across the country, critics said.

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Ness summed up many of the concerns of the medical community. “The Senate bill, which mirrors the House version, would still strip health coverage from millions, drive up costs, cut critical protections, gut Medicaid, defund Planned Parenthood, expand harmful abortion coverage restrictions and ultimately endanger women’s health and economic security—in order to deliver tax cuts to the wealthy,” she said.

Republicans' #ACA repeal bill is unpopular. Bigly. https://t.co/EZKwGENU5w #ProtectOurCare

— National Partnership (@NPWF) June 22, 2017

Other groups echoed her concerns. From the start of the debate over the ACA, hospitals and health systems have sought to protect coverage for Americans, said Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association, in a statement. “Unfortunately, the draft bill under discussion in the Senate moves in the opposite direction, particularly for our most vulnerable patients,” he said. “We urge the Senate to go back to the drawing board and develop legislation that continues to provide coverage to all Americans who currently have it.”

RELATED: Senate GOP unveils draft of healthcare overhaul bill

"Legislative malpractice"

"The Senate healthcare bill released today is just as bad as the version passed by the House of Representatives last month and is a threat to the health of America,” said George Benjamin, M.D., executive director of the American Public Health Association. Joining many others that criticized the secret meetings to craft the draft bill, he said Senate Republicans had committed “legislative malpractice.”

The American Medical Association also had concerns about the bill. “The AMA is reviewing the Senate health system reform legislation, guided by our key objectives that people who are currently insured should not lose their coverage and that Medicaid, CHIP and other safety net programs should be adequately funded. The AMA strongly opposes Medicaid spending caps, and we have grave concern with a formula that will not cover needed care for vulnerable patients," President David O. Barbe, M.D., said in an emailed statement.

Moving backward is not an option for the country, wrote Bernard J. Tyson, chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, in a LinkedIn post. “First, we need to cover more people, not fewer people,” he said, urging a three-part test to determine what progress on healthcare will look like: that it create greater access, affordability and better outcomes.

The American Psychiatric Association said the Senate proposal falls short of providing mental health care benefits and protections to the most vulnerable. “Physicians and their patients were not consulted in the process. Consequently, the legislation will have significant negative impacts on care for people with mental illness and substance use disorders,” the group said in a statement.

Physician leaders denounce Senate health care proposal. Our 6 organizations oppose this bill that will harm patients https://t.co/KOPEILAMo9

— American Psychiatric (@APAPsychiatric) June 22, 2017

"Turns back the clock on women's health"

Like many others, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists urged the Senate to reject the proposal. “This legislation deliberately strips the landmark women’s health gains made by the Affordable Care Act and would severely limit access to care. If enacted, this legislation will turn back the clock on women’s health,” said Haywood Brown, M.D., the group’s president, adding that the bill was crafted without the clinical and expert opinion of medical and health organizations.

So far, the Senate health care bill has not gotten any backing from top health & medical orgs https://t.co/rS8Xc4Iiy3 #ProtectOurCare

— ACOG Action (@ACOGAction) June 22, 2017

The bill also fails to meet the needs of children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The bill will dismantle the Medicaid program and includes what the group called misleading "protections" for children by proposing to exempt them from certain Medicaid cuts. "Put simply, this bill is bad policy for children," said Fernando Stein, M.D., the group’s president.

The U.S. Senate's health care legislation, at last unveiled today, fails to meet children's needs. #KeepKidsCovered https://t.co/3yl6IEyBYs pic.twitter.com/GUinFWKPaJ

— Amer Acad Pediatrics (@AmerAcadPeds) June 22, 2017

The proposed bill is bad for healthcare and the country, said Bruce Siegel, M.D., president and CEO of America’s Essential Hospitals. “For the hospitals that protect millions of Americans and their communities—our essential hospitals—this bill might even accelerate decisions by some to reduce services or close their doors,” he said. The bill will also kill jobs—more than 1.5 million nationally by some estimates, he noted.

The American Osteopathic Association criticized the bill, including the impact on insurance coverage. “By allowing states to opt out of coverage requirements such as the essential health benefits, the value of insurance coverage in the individual market will be lower, and those with coverage through their employer are at risk of being once again subject to lifetime or annual limits,” said its president, Boyd R. Buser, D.O., in an emailed statement.

"Puts patients first"

One voice supporting the action by the Senate Republicans was Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Administrator Seema Verma, who commended the progress made on the healthcare reform bill. “I appreciate the work of the Senate as they continue to make progress fixing the crisis in healthcare that has resulted from Obamacare. Skyrocketing premiums, rising costs and fewer choices have caused too many Americans to drop their insurance coverage. Today, Obamacare is in a death spiral and millions of Americans are being negatively impacted as a result. They are trapped by mandates that force them to purchase insurance they don’t want and can’t afford,” she said in an emailed statement.

“The Senate proposal is built on putting patients first and in charge of their healthcare decisions, bringing down the cost of coverage and expanding choices,” she continued. “Congress must act now to achieve the President's goal to make sure all Americans have access to quality, affordable coverage.”