What health care stakeholders are saying about the revised Senate bill

Hospital and patient advocacy groups on Thursday reiterated their opposition to the Senate's health reform bill, saying the latest changes do not address key concerns with the bill.

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Provider groups voice strong opposition

Hospital groups—including the American Hospital Association (AHA) and America's Essential Hospitals (AEH)—said they strongly oppose the revised bill.

AHA in a statement again "urged the Senate to go back to the drawing board," saying, "the unacceptable flaws of BCRA remain unchanged, and there are no significant changes to the massive Medicaid reductions."

AEH President and CEO Bruce Siegel in a statement said the revised bill is "entirely unacceptable" and makes a "bad bill worse." He wrote that the bill leaves in place provisions that would "gut the Medicaid program" and adds new a new provision that he said "would destabilize the private market by creating a two-tiered system that funnels the sick and others most in need of affordable coverage into the highest-cost plans." The new provision, which is a modified form of the Cruz-Lee amendment, would allow insurers that sell at least three ACA-compliant exchange plans in a coverage area to also sell exchange coverage that would not have to follow certain ACA requirements.

The Catholic Health Association in a statement said, "The proposed changes do not amend the core issue that this bill will ultimately take health care away from millions of our nation's most vulnerable populations."

American College of Physicians (ACP) President Jack Ende in a letter to Senate leaders said ACP believes the latest changes "will make the bill even more flawed and therefore even more harmful to our patients by creating new and perhaps insurmountable coverage barriers for patients with pre-existing conditions and by severely weakening or completely eliminating requirements that insurers cover essential health benefits and abide other protections like community rating."

American Psychiatric Association CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin in statement similarly took aim at the Cruz-Lee amendment, which would allow insurers to sell plans that do not meet the ACA's essential health benefits, including "treatment for mental illness and substance use disorders that will affect millions of patients and their families."

Advocacy groups warn of detrimental effects

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network President Chris Hansen in a statement said the revised bill "would leave patients and those with pre-existing conditions paying more for less coverage and would substantially erode the progress our nation has been trying to make in providing affordable, adequate and meaningful coverage to all Americans." Hansen called on senators "to come together to undertake a deliberate and inclusive process that would arrive at a bill that strengthens coverage and improves affordability for cancer patients, survivors, and all those at risk for the disease."

American Lung Association National President and CEO Harold Wimmer in a statement said he is "very disappointed" the revised bill "does not address the major concerns about quality and affordable health care previously outlined by the American Lung Association."

AARP in a statement said the revised bill would still result in "higher costs and less coverage for older Americans." The group reiterated its opposition to what it described as an "Age Tax" on older adults, "which would allow insurance companies to charge older Americans five times more than everyone else for the same coverage while reducing tax credits that help make insurance affordable."

America's Health Insurance Plans has yet to comment on the revised version of the bill, but ahead of the bill's release, the insurer group had criticized the original version of the Cruz-Lee amendment. The group said the amendment "would create even greater instability" in the individual marketplaces. The revised BCRA bill released Thursday includes a modified version of that amendment (AP/Sacramento Bee, 7/14; Small, FierceHealthcare, 7/13; AHA statement; AEH statement said; Catholic Health Association statement; American College of Physicians statement; American Psychiatric Association statement; American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network  statement; American Lung Association statement; AARP statement).

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