Legislative proposals for a Medicare public option could negatively affect patient access to care and significantly reduce payments to hospitals, AHA Executive Vice President Tom Nickels said during a panel discussion today at America’s Health Insurance Plans’ National Health Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. The panel focused on the hospital perspective on health reform. 
Citing findings from a new study prepared by KNG Health Consulting for the AHA and Federation of Americans Hospitals, Nickels and FAH Executive Vice President Jeff Cohen said that expanding on the existing public/private coverage framework would insure more people than the Medicare-X Choice Act, which would create a government-run, Medicare-like option on the individual health insurance exchanges, with less disruption to patients’ care and the private health insurance market. The bill would move millions of people from private to public coverage and could result in $800 billion in cuts to hospitals, harming patients who rely on their local health care providers, the study found. 

“There is no question that the impact in rural America would be devastating,” Nickels said. 
Nickels and Cohen also discussed the need to reduce skyrocketing drug prices and enact safeguards to protect patients from surprise medical bills. A recent AHA report found that continued rising drug prices, as well as shortages for many critical medications, are disrupting patient care and forcing hospitals to delay infrastructure and staffing investments and identify alternative therapies. Among other solutions, AHA supports the Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples Act (H.R. 965), legislation that would allow generic drug manufacturers facing certain anticompetitive delay tactics to bring an action in federal court for injunctive relief.

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