Eight organizations, including the AHA, will host Thursday in Cleveland the first in a series of events across the country urging the Senate to protect patient access to affordable and adequate care as the health debate continues in Washington, D.C.

"As the backbone of America's health safety-net, hospitals and health systems must protect access to care for those who need it and ensure that the most vulnerable, including children, the elderly, the disabled, and those with pre-existing conditions, are not left behind," said AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack. "The American Health Care Act would jeopardize health coverage for tens of millions of Americans while making deep cuts to Medicaid. We are proud to join with our partners in the health field to call on the Senate to reject this approach and to protect access to health care coverage."

In addition to the AHA, partners in the initiative include AARP, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, American Medical Association, Federation of American Hospitals and March of Dimes.

AMA President David Barbe, M.D., will moderate Thursday's event, which will feature local patients and health care providers. Future events are planned in Colorado, Nevada and West Virginia.

The programs will highlight four health policy areas: insurance affordability, essential care access, protections for Medicaid patients and protections for people enrolled in employer-sponsored plans.