Members of the American Medical Association (AMA), the largest association of physicians in the United States, have urged Republican lawmakers to present a viable health care alternative before they move to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
On Dec. 3, AMA CEO Dr. James Madara issued a letter to GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill requesting that they provide a plan to the public that would outline how they plan to dismantle the ACA while avoiding the loss of health care for over 20 million Americans who currently receive coverage through President Barack Obama's signature policy, Forbes reports.
In his letter, Madara addressed the Republican lawmakers' publicized plan of repealing large swaths of the ACA through budget reconciliation in the new 115th Congress while providing a replacement years down the road. In Madara and the AMA's view, the replacement should be defined before Congress takes action to gut the the ACA.
"We believe that before any action is taken through reconciliation or other means that would potentially alter coverage, policymakers should lay out for the American people, in reasonable detail, what will replace current policies," Madara wrote.
The AMA CEO added that "patients and other stakeholders should be able to clearly compare current policy to new proposals so they can make informed decisions about whether it represents a step forward in the ongoing process of health reform."
Madara noted that his group had supported the ACA since its passage "because it was a significant improvement on the status quo at that time … We also recognize that the ACA is imperfect and there are a number of issues that need to be addressed."
The AMA CEO concluded that his group would support any efforts to improve the availability and affordability of health care coverage nationwide.
Republican lawmakers, who have been campaigning against the ACA since it was first signed into law, have been vocally determined to repeal the massive health care policy but have been unclear on how they intend to replace the coverage it provides to over 20 million Americans.
Bipartisan Policy Center Senior Vice President G. William Hoagland believes that Republican lawmakers are beginning to realize that repealing the ACA without a comprehensive plan for replacement could cause millions of their constituents to lose health care coverage.
"There are a number of Republicans, particularly in the Senate, who are going to be very nervous about voting to repeal something without knowing what this process may ultimately produce," Hoagland told the Los Angeles Times. "It could get a lot messier than people appreciate."
Republican lawmakers' current plan to repeal before offering a comprehensive replacement of the ACA has even drawn concern from Joseph Antos and James Capretta of the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute.
On Jan. 3, the two conservative health care policy experts penned a piece in the journal Health Affairs, criticizing Republican lawmakers' current plan to effectively repeal the ACA in the 2017 legislative session while delaying its removal to at least 2019 in hopes of formulating a suitable replacement by that time.
"We do not support this approach to repealing and replacing the ACA because it carries too much risk of unnecessary disruption to the existing insurance arrangements upon which many people are now relying to finance their health services, and because it is unlikely to produce a coherent reform of health care in the United States," Antos and Capretta wrote.