The AHA on May 25 urged the Senate Finance Committee to “make continued coverage a priority” as it considers changes to the Affordable Care Act.

“We believe that any changes to the ACA must be guided by ensuring that we continue to provide health care coverage for the tens of millions of Americans who have benefitted from the law, wrote AHA Executive Vice President Tom Nickels.

The AHA is “pleased that so many in the Senate, and on the Committee on Finance, also recognize the need to preserve coverage,” Nickels said. “We believe that any legislation needs to be reviewed through this lens, and carefully evaluated regarding its impact on both individuals and the ability of hospitals and health systems – which are the backbone of the nation's health care safety net – to care for all who walk through our doors. We look forward to working with the Senate to address these issues, and believe that together we can agree on legislation that meets our mutual goals.”

The committee sought comments from stakeholders as it considers changes to the House-passed American Health Care Act.

The AHA’s letter came a day after the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation May 24 estimated 51 million people under age 65 would lack health insurance in 2026 under the AHCA, which would repeal and replace parts of the Affordable Care Act, 23 million more than under current law.

In 2018, 14 million fewer people would have coverage. CBO and JCT estimate that the legislation would reduce the federal deficit by $119 billion over the 2017-2026 period. The largest savings would come from reductions in outlays for Medicaid and replacement of the ACA’s subsidies for non-group health insurance with new tax credits.

CBO and JCT estimate the AHCA would cut $834 million from the Medicaid program.

“The latest CBO estimates on the impact of the American Health Care Act only reinforce our deep concerns about the importance of maintaining coverage for those vulnerable patients who need it,” said AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack. “In the absence of any other government estimate, the CBO analysis will inform policymakers about financial and coverage impacts. As we have said, any health reforms must be guided by ensuring that millions of people across the country don't lose access to their health care coverage. We cannot support legislation that the CBO clearly indicates would jeopardize that coverage for millions of Americans.”

The House on May 4 voted 217-213 to pass the AHCA, which would repeal the ACA’s Medicaid expansion and cut nearly $840 billion from the program. The bill also would allow states to waive certain insurance rules and consumer protections required under the ACA, specifically those related to essential health benefits and community rating, thus impacting pre-existing conditions. It also would establish an $8 billion fund for states that receive waivers for community rating to help individuals with pre-existing conditions.

Senate Republicans have been meeting frequently to compile legislation of their own.

Pollack urged the Senate to “work together in a manner that provides coverage to those who need it and ensures that the most vulnerable are not left behind.”

For additional talking points, AHA members can access the association’s Message of the Day on the AHA’s advocacy resource page.