Health groups blast away at ObamaCare repeal bill

Healthcare groups are ramping up their opposition to the ObamaCare replacement bill ahead of a House vote this week.

The American Hospital Association is running TV ads against the American Health Care Act, warning that millions of people would lose coverage if it becomes law. The AARP says it will be alerting its 38 million members to how their representatives voted on the legislation. And the American Medical Association is calling on Republicans to go “back to the drawing board.”

So far, though, congressional Republicans are pushing ahead, with the bill scheduled to reach the House floor on Thursday.

Some key industry players have been more restrained in their reactions to the legislation, including insurers, who would be among the most affected.

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America’s Health Insurance Plans, the main lobbying organization for insurers, has not taken a firm position on the Republican plan. It has expressed concern about some provisions but is not undertaking any public campaigns, speaking only with lawmakers in private.

Hospitals, meanwhile, have been among the most outspoken opponents of the legislation.

The American Hospital Association has launched TV ads against the bill, using a clip of then-candidate Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump pens op-ed on kindergartners learning tech Bharara, Yates tamp down expectations Mueller will bring criminal charges Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open MORE saying in 2015 that “everybody’s got to be covered.” The ad argues, though, that despite that promise “millions could lose health coverage” under the House Republican plan.

In addition, all of the major hospital groups wrote to members of Congress expressing opposition.

The hospitals are particularly apprehensive about the bill’s deep cuts to Medicaid — amounting to roughly $880 billion over 10 years, a 25 percent reduction, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

“We are deeply concerned that the proposed Medicaid program restructuring will result in both the loss of coverage for current enrollees as well as cuts to a program that provides health care services for our most vulnerable populations, including children, the elderly and disabled,” the hospitals wrote in the letter to Congress.

During the passage of ObamaCare, hospitals agreed to support Medicare cuts in exchange for expanded coverage, which reduced the care they had to give to people who could not pay. Now hospitals object that the GOP bill keeps Medicare cuts in place while cutting back on the coverage gains.

The AARP, a powerful group among seniors, a key constituency for Republicans, is speaking out strongly against a provision in the bill loosening restrictions on insurers to allow them to charge older people more. Republicans say the provision will help lower premiums for younger people and stabilize the market, but the AARP has dubbed the provision an “age tax.”

The AARP says it will communicate the results of the House vote to all of its 38 million members through its print publication, The Bulletin, as well through emails and social media.

The group has a six-figure radio ad buy in targeted congressional districts, as well as a digital ad buy.

The American Medical Association, the country’s largest doctors group, has not put forward the same public campaign as the hospitals, but it is still strongly opposed to the measure.

The AMA’s president, Dr. Andrew Gurman, held an event at the National Press Club last week, alongside the American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association and American Heart Association, to speak out against the Republican bill.

Gurman delivered an “urgent call to congressional leaders to go back to the drawing board.” He pointed to “grim” estimates on the House GOP bill from the Congressional Budget Office, which found that 24 million more people would be uninsured by 2026.

Still, he noted that there are no plans for a “blitz” against the bill.

Insurers have taken a more subdued approach. A letter from AHIP said the tax credits in the GOP bill could be too small to help low-income people get covered and warned of Medicaid cuts. But AHIP did not take an overall position for or against.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), one of the lead authors of the bill, has hit back against the industry opposition, particularly from the hospitals.

"We understand you change this thing up, there's a pretty big medical industrial complex in America, and when you touch it, I've discovered it touches back," Walden told reporters earlier this month.

While the bill faces opposition from the healthcare industry, other groups are spending money and manpower to get it passed.

The American Action Network, a group aligned with House GOP leaders, is running digital ads urging lawmakers to support the bill. The group spent more than $10 million over the course of its advocacy campaign so far.

AdvaMed, the medical device industry trade group, supports the measure for repealing the ObamaCare tax on medical devices. 

The National Retail Federation and U.S. Chamber of Commerce also support the bill, noting that it repeals the mandate for employers to provide health coverage and delays the “Cadillac tax” on generous health plans.