Healthcare groups issue scathing criticism of Senate bill

Leading healthcare advocacy groups are urging the Senate to make substantial changes to its healthcare plan released Thursday, warning it could have negative consequences for people across the country.

The proposal includes deep cuts to Medicaid and fundamentally reshapes the program from an open-ended government commitment to a system of capped federal payments that limit spending.

It also reduces spending on ObamaCare’s tax credits, which help people buy insurance. 

Support of big health groups was crucial to the passing of ObamaCare in 2010, but those same groups have largely been shut out of the process as Republicans try to repeal it. They were mostly critical of the House-passed healthcare bill. 

Here’s what they have to say about the Senate draft released Thursday. 

American Hospital Association (AHA) 

The AHA quickly slammed the Senate bill, urging the Senate to “go back to the drawing board.”

"From the onset of this debate, America’s hospitals and health systems have been guided by a set of key principles that would protect coverage for Americans," AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack said in a statement. 

"Unfortunately, the draft bill under discussion in the Senate moves in the opposite direction, particularly for our most vulnerable patients.” 

The association represents nearly 5,000 hospitals and healthcare systems. It has been the sixth-highest lobbying spender in Washington this year, according to OpenSecrets.

Federation of American Hospitals (FAH)

The FAH was equally critical of the Senate bill. In a statement, FAH president and CEO Chip Kahn objected to the lack of "reasonable Medicaid structural reforms" and said the bill doesn't "sustain affordable, high quality individual coverage" or protect employer-sponsored insurance.

Kahn also slammed the fact that the legislation doesn’t do anything to roll back “untenable cuts” to hospital reimbursement. 

“Now is the time for the Senate to hit reset and make key improvements to this legislation,” Kahn said. 

FAH represents privately owned hospitals and, together with AHA, represent two of the largest hospital associations in the country. 

America’s Essential Hospitals

The association representing nearly 300 safety net medical centers came out strong against the bill, saying it would kill jobs, leave people without lifesaving services and hurt progress made on curbing the opioid epidemic. 

“Today’s Senate bill makes few material improvements to the deeply damaging House legislation, and might be worse overall,” Bruce Siegel, president and CEO of America’s Essential Hospitals, said in a statement. “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. 

The group called for senators to work with stakeholders in an “open and transparent process” to fix the healthcare system “while preserving progress made toward coverage and stability for all.”

American Academy of Pediatrics 

The American Academy of Pediatrics gave the Senate’s bill a failing grade.  

“The bill fails children by dismantling the Medicaid program, capping its funding, ending its expansion and allowing its benefits to be scaled back,” Fernando Stein, the group’s president, said in a statement. “The bill fails all children by leaving more families uninsured, or without insurance they can afford or that meets their basic needs.”

The organization represents 66,000 primary care pediatricians and specialists, and said its members will continue to speak out against the legislation. It slammed the process, saying the bill was crafted without letting pediatricians weigh in.

Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)

The AAMC warned that the Senate bill could place “untenable strain on states and providers” while harming patients.

“We are extremely disappointed by the Senate bill released today. Despite promises to the contrary, it will leave millions of people without health coverage, and others with only bare bones plans that will be insufficient to properly address their needs,” President and CEO Darrell Kirch said in a statement.

“As the nation’s medical schools and teaching hospitals see every day, people without sufficient coverage often delay getting the care they need. This can turn a manageable condition into a life-threatening and expensive emergency.”

The bill should at least maintain ObamaCare levels of coverage, not weaken Medicaid and be the result of a more transparent process, Kirch said.

AAMC represents all 147 accredited medical schools in the U.S. 

Nathaniel Weixel contributed.