Lobbying by Hospitals and Doctors Stymies GOP Health Care Push

Medical associations wield lobbying clout

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) has shown surprising staying power, thanks largely to hospitals, doctors, and other health-industry players putting up strong opposition to the GOP’s health care plans, according to an article in the Seattle Times. Deep-pocketed medical associations are leading the charge, wielding their considerable lobbying clout on Capitol Hill.

For providers, coverage gains and expanded benefits under the PPACA translate to better chances of keeping patients healthy, and fewer unpaid bills, according to the article. They say such tangible results outweigh the act’s shortcomings.

Recently, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Osteopathic Association, and the American Psychiatric Association have all written congressional leaders warning of negative consequences to patients if the GOP health care bill becomes law.

Patient-advocacy groups, such as the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, the American Lung Association, and the March of Dimes, have raised similar concerns.

As an illustration of the provider playbook on Capitol Hill, the Times article cites the lobbying activities of the Marshfield Clinic, a nonprofit group practice with more than 700 doctors serving the northern part of Wisconsin. Marshfield also operates several hospitals and an insurer, the Security Health Plan.

Marshfield representatives have met with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), health secretary Tom Price, and members of the state’s congressional delegation. Not only is Marshfield a health care enterprise, it is also a major local employer.

“The biggest concern we express is that we have made many gains with the [PP]ACA as it exists today,” said Marshfield CEO Susan Turney. “We are particularly concerned about what’s happening with pre-existing conditions.”

The latest draft of the GOP bill includes an amendment that would allow states to reject the PPACA provision that requires insurers to charge people with medical problems the same premiums that the healthy pay. Under the amendment, consumers who have had a break in coverage could be charged more.

The Marshfield representatives cite gains that include 30,000 PPACA customers covered through the system’s insurance plan, nearly all of whom receive federal subsidies. In addition, Marshfield’s burden of unpaid care has been dramatically reduced. In 2012, the system treated 13,277 patients who were uninsured. That number dropped to 6,948 last year, according to the article.

Source: The Seattle Times; May 1, 2017.