Prestigious medical groups denounce health care vote

Many of the country's most respected doctors' groups and consumer health organizations are decrying Thursday's vote in the House for a Republican health care bill that could cut health benefits for millions of Americans.

The bill, which passed by a narrow margin, is an amended version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), a GOP plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Within hours of the vote, many of the country's top medical organizations representing hundreds of thousands of physicians and doctors in training, made public statements and spoke out on social media.

"Our organizations, which represent over 560,000 physicians and medical students, are deeply disappointed that the U.S. House of Representatives today passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA), an inherently flawed bill that would do great harm to our patients," a joint statement from six medical groups whose members include family physicians, pediatricians, obstetricians, gynecologists, osteopathic physicians, psychiatrists and medical students said.

The six organizations that teamed up on the statement noted their members are the frontline physicians who provide physical and mental health care services to millions of Americans every day; the groups are:

  • American Academy of Family Physicians
  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • American College of Physicians
  • American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
  • American Psychiatric Association American
  • American Osteopathic Association

Despite their efforts to educate lawmakers prior to the vote about the implications of the Trump-endorsed legislation, the organizations said, "Regrettably, the AHCA, as amended and passed by the House, violates our principles, dramatically increasing costs for older individuals, resulting in millions of people losing their health care coverage, and returning to a system that allows insurers to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions. "

The bill will now head to the Senate, where lawmakers are expected to make substantial changes. The medical organizations urged senators to "promptly put aside the AHCA, and instead work with our organizations to achieve real bipartisan solutions to improve affordability, access, and coverage for all."

The American Medical Association issued a separate statement noting that it had strongly opposed the bill. "If the AHCA were to become law, millions of Americans would lose health insurance coverage, and the safety net provided by Medicaid would be severely eroded," the AMA said.

Dr. Andrew Gurman, president of the AMA, said people with pre-existing health conditions face the possibility of going back to the time when insurance companies could charge premiums that made access to coverage out of the question. He urged the Senate and the administration to work with physicians, patients, hospitals and other provider groups "to craft bipartisan solutions so all American families can access affordable and meaningful coverage, while preserving the safety net for vulnerable populations."

The American Academy of Pediatrics also published a statement of its own, focusing on the bill's potential impact on children. Passage of AHCA is "putting into motion a dangerous policy precedent and clearing the first hurdle to reversing the tremendous progress we've made in children's health care coverage," the group said.

The rate of children's health coverage in the country is at a historic high of 95 percent, but "the AHCA would not only halt this progress, it would tear it down," the AAP statement said. "AHCA is bad policy for children and dangerous policy for our country, and the American Academy of Pediatrics will continue to speak out against it."

Pediatrician Dr. Nathaniel Beers, CEO and president of the HSC Health Care System in Washington, D.C., told CBS News, "I think the initial reaction is just disappointment that a group of adults would not be willing to think about the implications for over 37 million children and their families."

Beers, whose health system focuses on children with disabilities, said, "The lack of awareness of what the loss of support for pre-existing conditions and services that school systems are able to bill for will have real implications on the quality of life and outcomes for kids."

The American Nurses Association, which represents more than 3.6 million registered nurses, also strongly opposed the AHCA, stating that it is "deeply disappointed with the passage of this legislation."

"Over the past several weeks, nurses from across the country expressed their strong disapproval of this bill which would negatively impact the health of the nation. Today, Congress not only ignored the voice of the nation's most honest and ethical profession and largest group of health care professionals," said ANA President Pamela Cipriano.

Some of the country's largest health organizations spoke out as well.

American Heart Association CEO Dr. Nancy Brown tweeted, "Very disappointed in #AHCA vote. We will not stop fighting for accessible, adequate & affordable health care for all."

The American Diabetes Association, which advocates for the more 29 million Americans living with diabetes and 86 million with prediabetes, tweeted, "We are extremely disappointed with the House's passage of the #AHCA."

statement on the group's website elaborated on those concerns: "The most alarming last minute changes to the bill will allow states to waive the requirement for essential health benefits and health status rating. Weakening these rules will give insurers the ability to charge people with pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, higher prices. It will also allow insurers to deny people with diabetes coverage for the care and services they need to treat their disease."

The American Lung Association tweeted: "#AHCA fails millions of Americans with lung & other serious diseases. We call on the #Senate to protect patients."

Rebecca Parker, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, told CBS News, "We're pretty concerned that the AHCA passed in the house today, in particular providing the ability for states to waive essential benefits of emergency services. People can't choose when they're going to have an emergency and can't worry about whether they're going to be covered or not."

In a statement echoing those remarks, the American College of Emergency Physicians also noted, "In a recent poll, Americans overwhelmingly — 95 percent— wanted health insurance companies to cover emergency medical care, and we agree with them." 

State health organizations voiced their concern, too. The California Medical Association (CMA), which represents more than 43,000 physicians in all medical specialties, warned that "this flawed policy will worsen both coverage and access to care for Californians, especially for Medicaid (Medi-Cal) patients, women and Californians living with pre-existing health conditions.

CMA president Dr. Ruth Haskins said, "Today the House of Representatives turned their backs on 24 million Americans and 3 million Californians who will be left without health coverage or access to care."

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    Mary Brophy Marcus covers health and wellness for CBSNews.com