GOP shunned lob­by­ists to pen ‘pa­tients-cen­tric bill’

Austin American-Statesman - - FATAL BUS CRASH - By John T. Ben­nett

An ex­ten­sive list of ma­jor or­ga­ni­za­tions

that are op­pos­ing a Repub- li­can health care over­haul mea­sure were con­sulted as it was crafted, but the White House says those groups’ views were re­jected in fa­vor of a “pa­tients-cen­tric bill.”

From the Amer­i­can Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion to the Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Re­search and Man­u­fac­tur­ers of Amer­ica, or PhRMA, to the Amer­i­can Hos­pi­tal As­so­ci­a­tion to the AARP, a seem­ingly ever-grow­ing list of in­flu- en­tial groups that backed the Obama ad­min­is­tra- tion’s 2010 Af­ford­able Care Act are op­posed this time around. But they are part of the Wash­ing­ton “swamp” of plugged-in pol­icy in­flu­encers that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump vowed to drain, his White House made clear

this week. The groups cited a pano- ply of rea­sons for their oppo- sition, say­ing the GOP bill, called the Amer­i­can Health Care Act, would strip too many peo­ple of cov­er­age, cre­ate cov­er­age that was too ex­pen­sive, and com­pli­cate Med­i­caid cov­er­age for mil­lions.

As the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion was craft­ing its health care law, of­fi­cials kept those groups in­volved, and in­cor

po­rated their views while craft­ing the leg­is­la­tion. And the groups stated their sup­port, or at least neu­tral­ity, be­fore it hit the House and Se­nate floors. This time around is a dif­fer­ent story. The White House

said that while it would “love” to have ev­ery as­so­ci­a­tion on board, Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials felt no need to give Wash­ing­ton-based health and med­i­cal groups a seat at the ta­ble, or even con­sider their in­sights.

“This isn’t about how many spe­cial in­ter­ests in Wash­ing­ton got paid off,” White House Press Sec­re­tary Sean Spicer said at his daily brief­ing Wed­nes­day, re­fer­ring to as­so­ci­a­tions that rep­re­sent and lobby on be­half of med­i­cal in­dus­tries, physi­cians and more than 30 mil- lion se­nior cit­i­zens.

“I have re­spect for some of the work that some of these ... D.C.-based as­so­ci­a­tions do,” Spicer said, although some, like the Chicago-based AMA, are not based in Wash­ing­ton. But “at the end of the day, this is about pa­tients and the in­put from doc­tors who are on the front lines of see-

ing pa­tients ... and the care they are able to give and not give to peo­ple.”

The health-sec­tor groups “got a really good deal last time,” he said. “This is a pa­tients-cen­tric bill.”

sSe­nior Repub­li­can aides re­ported lit­tle sur­prise that the health care as­so­ci­a­tions are op­posed to the mea­sure.

“It’s not sur­pris­ing that groups that helped pass ACA don’t want to see it re­pealed,” said one House GOP lead­er­ship aide.

And an­other se­nior Repub­li­can de­scribed the groups as hav­ing had “many op­por­tu­ni­ties to of­fer their feed­back and voice their sug­ges­tions through­out the en­tire month­s­long process lead­ing to this bill.”

In a state­ment, the Amer­i­can Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion said it had been in “fre­quent com­mu­ni­ca­tion” with the Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic lead­er­ship of­fices, as well as rel­e­vant com­mit­tee chair­men and rank­ing mem­bers.

“The Af­ford­able Care Act needed to be im­proved, but we em­pha­sized that peo­ple who were in­sured be­cause of it should not lose their cov­er­age un­der a re­place­ment,”

the AMA’s state­ment read David Cert­ner, leg­isla­tive coun­sel at the AARP,

said the sub­stance of the bill does not match AARP’s health care over­haul goals — nor, he said, did it match the cam­paign-trail rhetoric of Trump and con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans, who promised a re­place­ment that would

not re­sult in peo­ple los­ing health in­sur­ance cov­er­age.

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