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Why physician groups support the Affordable Care Act

Posted by Mark Ryan, MD November 4, 2012 at 1:05 AM

Physician groups support the Affordable Care Act (ACA) because it will improve health care for our patients.  Doctors care about patients, and we support laws that help us do our work for patients—laws that protect those to whom we’ve dedicated our careers.  By helping us provide better care, the ACA will make your healthcare better.

Our organization–the National Physicians Alliance (NPA)–was formed in 2005 and is committed to advancing the core values of the medical profession: service, integrity, and advocacy.  The organization has key guiding principles that focus on putting our patients health and wellness above all other concerns.  NPA’s advocacy has emphasized the need to ensure patient protection and to repair the broken covenant that our nation’s healthcare system must benefit all Americans.  Our commitment and our obligation to care for our patients is limited by many factors: insurance company policies that restrict the care we can provide, health disparities that persist despite individual efforts to address them, and a lack of insurance that limits access to health insurance and healthcare.

As a result of NPA’s determination to ensure equitable and affordable healthcare for all Americans, the organization has worked to secure the passage of the ACA and to advocate for its full implementation.  In keeping with NPA’s guiding principles, our support of the ACA has been focused on the benefits the law provides to patients as well as its protection of the doctor-patient relationship we hold as a sacred responsibility as professionals.

How does the ACA protect patients?

The ACA provides important benefits for ALL Americans: The ACA provides multiple benefits for the middle class.  Considering the major role that healthcare costs play in personal bankruptcies (PDF), it is clear that ensuring the affordability of healthcare provides a crucial protection for middle class Americans.  Affordable insurance–made more so by government support to help lower income families and changes in insurance enrollment that are predicted to reduce the cost for all–will allow most Americans to see the health benefits of having health insurance (PDF).  Adult children will now be able to stay on parents’ insurance policies until they are 26 years old, thereby enhancing their ability to access health insurance while in school and starting out in the workforce.  Coupled with reforms that will remove limits on annual and lifetime coverage benefits for patients, Americans will be better protected as they look to move into the middle class and secure a better future for themselves and their families.  In addition, preventive care services including vaccines, pap smears, colonoscopies, and other necessary services will be made available to Americans without requiring co-pays, making them more available than ever before.

The ACA promotes fairness and equality in medical care: The ACA reverses one of the most egregious facts of healthcare insurance in the US: the fact that a person’s gender was the basis for charging women more for health insurance than men.  This difference exists only because a woman was a woman, and is not due to specific coverage (PDF) such as for pregnancy or maternity care.  The ACA will also target national healthcare inequalities by strengthening the nation’s community health centers, increasing the number of physicians working in medically underserved areas by increasing National Health Service Corps scholarships.  Finally, the ACA begins to address our national need for more primary care physicians and move towards a healthcare workforce that is accessible to all.

The ACA protects patients from insurance company abuses:  Thanks to the ACA, insurance companies will have less control over patients’ healthcare.  Insurers will be required to offer insurance to everyone regardless of whether or not they have a preexisting medical condition–a benefit that has already gone into effect for children and is planned to go into effect for adults in 2014.  The ACA prevents insurance companies from setting arbitrary limits to patients’ lifetime health insurance benefits, and as of 2014 will eliminate annual limits to care.  Insurance companies are required to spend 80-85% of members’ premiums on providing benefits to those members, as opposed to using that money for administrative costs or executive salaries.  The ACA bans the practice of rescissions, in which insurance companies would seek reasons to retroactively cancel members’ insurance coverage once those members became ill and most needed the protection.  The ACA provides greater governmental scrutiny of unreasonable insurance rate hikes, helping insure that Americans are not being harmed by insurers willfully increasing policy costs without reason or justification.  Finally, by establishing health insurance marketplaces (or exchanges), the ACA will require all insurers to show the purchasers of their products–our patients–that the companies are effective and responsive to their customers’ needs or they will risk patients finding coverage elsewhere.  This should increase transparency and provide greater benefits to patients who will be able to vote with their feet and leave ineffective companies to look for better options.

The NPA is not the only physician organization to support the ACA.  The law is also supported by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the American Osteopathic Association, and the American Medical Student Association.  This broad-based support has been given additional voice by nonprofit organizations such as NPA and Doctors for America.

The reasons all of these physician groups support the ACA is simple.  As physicians, the law’s reforms allow us to provide better care for our patients–without being limited by insurance regulations or lack of access to health insurance.  The ACA removes important barriers to care, and lets us get back to the core focus of our profession: the covenant to do whatever we can to improve our patients’ health and wellness.

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