Industry muted in reaction to GOP healthcare reform bill

As a battle looms in Congress over the fate of the recently introduced American Health Care Act, organizations assess potential impact on healthcare and IT.

Healthcare organizations hesitantly weighed in on the newly introduced American Health Care Act, as political forces in Washington began to line up in a battle over the landmark proposed legislation.

Provider organizations, in general, expressed concern about the impact the legislation would have on those who have obtained health insurance in the last seven years under the Affordable Care Act, which the GOP is trying to replace.

On Monday, House Republicans unveiled the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which repeals, replaces or adjusts some elements of the Affordable Care Act—but leaves many elements of the ACA intact.

On Tuesday, conservative Republicans expressed early opposition to the AHCA, saying that it did not go far enough in repealing aspects of the Affordable Care Act that the GOP had long opposed. Supporters claim the new legislation would eliminate the individual mandate to obtain health insurance contained in Obamacare and include tax incentives meant to encourage Americans to purchase coverage.

Some conservatives label the proposed bill as “Obamacare Lite,” contending that it contains a new entitlement program and a modified individual mandate that would be paid to insurance companies and not the government.

Committee discussion of the bill is expected today, while President Donald Trump has expressed support for the legislation and is expected to pressure hesitant party members to support it. Discussion on the bill is proceeding even as the Congressional Budget Office scores its budget impact on the budget; changing its provisions could be difficult because of the legislative approach the GOP has used to repeal the ACA.

Also See: How the GOP plan could affect healthcare IT

Response from some healthcare organizations was swift. For example, the American Academy of Family Physicians noted that it “has significant concerns with the AHCA as drafted and is deeply troubled by the negative impact it would have on individuals, families and our healthcare system at large,” according to a letter addressed to leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which will review the bill.

The organization, which represents about 116,000 family physicians, is concerned that the AHCA “will result in millions of currently insured individuals losing their healthcare coverage, including those who currently have employer-based coverage,” its letter states. “We are equally concerned that the phased-in implementation outlined in your proposal will destabilize insurance markets over the next three years and directly harm millions of people. We strongly disagree with statements that suggest the AHCA will provide every American ‘access to healthcare coverage,’” which the association says is “distinctly different than ‘securing health care coverage.’ “

Professional organizations focused on healthcare information technology noted that the legislation represents a starting point for discussion, and that it was difficult to ascertain what the final form of the legislation will be, and hence, the impact that it might have on HIT over the long term.

“All we can say is that there are a lot of moving pieces,” says Rob Tennant, director of health information technology policy at the Medical Group Management Association. “At least two legislative vehicles in two committees are going through mark-up and there’s no CBO score, so we are currently evaluating the impact of this comprehensive legislation.

“I know you are most interested on the impact of the legislation on HIT, and we don’t know much at this point. We should know more in the while,” he adds.

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives noted that the direct impact of the legislation on healthcare IT strategies appears to be minimal.

“We are reviewing the bill and at first glance, there doesn’t seem to be any major implications for health IT,” says Matthew Weinstock, its director of communications. “The bulk of the legislation seems aimed at the marketplaces, insurance reforms and other issues that are outside of our core focus.”

Other industry organizations also reported wait-and-see postures on the proposed legislation, indicating that much work lies ahead.

“We are reviewing the bill, with a commitment to a stable market that best ensures affordable, high-quality coverage for all Americans,” said a statement by America’s Health Insurance Plans, which represents 1,300 member companies that provide health insurance coverage to 200 million Americans. “By working collaboratively and in a bipartisan manner with policymakers and the Administration, together we can improve healthcare in our nation.”

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