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Major medical groups call for rejection of Senate health bill

Health care critics
GOP health care plan faces opposition 05:52

More than a dozen leading health and medical organizations are speaking out in opposition to the Senate's new health care plan to replace Obamacare. Those calling for the rejection of the bill include groups that represent doctors in a number of medical specialties who say it would harm their patients.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says it opposes the Republican plan because the youngest Americans would suffer, especially the poorest.

AAP President Dr. Fernando Stein 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 Senate plan would dismantle the Medicaid programs that protect children's health, he said.

"This bill fails children living in or near poverty, children in foster care and children with complex health care needs whose parents have private insurance – all of these children depend on Medicaid, and if this bill passes, Medicaid will no longer be there for them."

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The American Medical Association, which has about a quarter-million members, issued a statement Monday opposing the legislation. In an open letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the physicians' group wrote: 

"Medicine has long operated under the precept of Primum non nocere, or 'first, do no harm.' The draft legislation violates that standard on many levels. ... Though we await additional analysis of the proposal, it seems highly likely that a combination of smaller subsidies resulting from lower benchmarks and the increased likelihood of waivers of important protections such as required benefits, actuarial value standards, and out of pocket spending limits will expose low and middle income patients to higher costs and greater difficulty in affording care."

In an earlier statement Friday, AMA president Dr. David O. Barbe raised particular concerns about Medicaid cuts, saying, "The AMA strongly opposes Medicaid spending caps, and we have grave concern with a formula that will not cover needed care for vulnerable patients."

American Lung Association national president and CEO Harold P. Wimmer said the bill falls "woefully short of providing health care for the 32 million Americans living with lung disease," and that it should be rejected.

"The Senate bill will slash funding for our nation's Medicaid program, which provides coverage for 20 percent of Americans and 39 percent of children — many of whom have asthma, COPD and other lung diseases," Wimmer said.

Women's health would be at risk too, said Dr. Haywood Brown, president of The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Among other things, the bill would defund Planned Parenthood.

"ACOG is deeply disappointed," said Brown, warning that the Senate plan "deliberately strips" gains made in women's health under the Affordable Care Act and that it would severely limit access to care.

"If enacted, this legislation will turn back the clock on women's health. We are disturbed by the secretive method in which this bill was crafted, and by the Senate's exclusion of clinical and expert opinion from ACOG and other peer medical and health organizations. Despite numerous efforts to collaborate and provide input throughout this process, women's health expertise was rejected," said Brown, calling it "reckless."

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) said today it has "grave concerns" about the Senate's draft legislation. ACEP president Dr. Rebecca Parker said the bill "makes sweeping changes to the health care system that directly contradict ACEP's principles and endanger patient safety and patients' lives."

The "gutting" of Medicaid will lead to millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans, she said. "The inevitable consequence of people losing their insurance is increases in patient loads and crowding at emergency departments, which are already seeing record numbers of patients."

She added, "We also have grave concerns that this bill does nothing to address the epidemic of opioid and drug dependence in the country, which led to a 99 percent increase in emergency department visits between 2005 and 2014."

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) also urged lawmakers to reject the legislation, which the Senate is expected to vote on before members head off for the July 4 recess.

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"The Senate proposal represents a significant move in the wrong direction, resulting in fewer people having access to insurance, fewer patient protections, and less coverage for essential behavioral health care," APA CEO and medical director Dr. Saul Levin said in a press statement.

He urged the Senate to "start again on a health care bill that puts patients first."

The Association of American Medical Colleges said it's "extremely disappointed" by the Senate bill, which it said would leave only skeletal health care plans for many.

"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. 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 group said in a statement Thursday.

AARP, the nonprofit interest group for older Americans which claims 38 million members, called on senators to reject the new bill, which analysts say would jack up insurance prices for seniors. AARP called it an "Age Tax."

"AARP is adamantly opposed to the Age Tax, which would allow insurance companies to charge older Americans five times more for coverage than everyone else while reducing tax credits that help make insurance more affordable," AARP executive vice president Nancy LeaMond in a statement.

The group also decried cuts to Medicaid and Medicare, and took umbrage at the way it was crafted out of the public eye.

"This new Senate bill was crafted in secrecy behind closed doors without a single hearing or open debate — and it shows," LeaMond said.

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