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Why a top physicians’ group opposes the GOP health care plan

March 17, 2017 at 6:35 PM EDT
Although leading Republicans are pushing to pass their Obamacare replacement bill next week, its impact on millions of Americans remains a point of worry. Some prominent interest groups directly involved in health care are expressing opposition to the plan. Jeffrey Brown talks to Dr. Andrew Gurman, president of the American Medical Association, about the group’s concerns.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump and the Republican leadership in the House are working to pass a health care bill later next week. But there’s still criticism and concern about the impact of this bill, including among lawmakers, governors and, of course, among voters.

There are also a number of powerful interest groups who are directly involved in health care and they are expressing reservations.

Tonight, Jeffrey Brown hears one of those perspectives.

JEFFREY BROWN: In 2010, the American Medical Association, the largest physicians group in the country, lobbied for the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

Fast-forward to today, the group is publicly opposing the proposed House Republican health plan.

Dr. Andrew Gurman is its president, and joins me now.

Welcome to you.

DR. ANDREW GURMAN, President, American Medical Association: Thank you. Delighted to be here.

JEFFREY BROWN: Can you boil down the essence of the opposition? What is wrong with this plan?

DR. ANDREW GURMAN: Sure.

We know that people who don’t have health insurance live sicker and die younger. So, it is a basic principle of ours that people who have insurance shouldn’t lose it, and people don’t have health insurance should get it. And we’re afraid that, under this bill, that wouldn’t happen.

JEFFREY BROWN: So, take parts of it.

The tax credit part, emphasis of this, why wouldn’t that work, or who would that not work for?

DR. ANDREW GURMAN: Well, we’re concerned that the poorest and sickest among us would be the ones most affected.

And I will give you an example. These are numbers from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Someone who is 60 years old under the Affordable Care Act might get subsidies of up to between $9,000 and $13,000 to buy insurance, depending on where he or she lived.

Under the proposed legislation, that subsidy would be $4,000 flat, across the board. It doesn’t know where you live. It is virtually impossible to purchase insurance at that age for $4,000.

JEFFREY BROWN: Do you see an impact on your own patients? You’re already hearing the worries?

DR. ANDREW GURMAN: The worries that my patients have, have to do with high deductibles and availability of insurance.

And I can give you example of someone I saw last week in my office, self-employed carpenter, probably makes somewhere between $20,000 and $30,000 in a good year. He needs to have surgery on his hand. He has a $6,000 deductible. That’s a big problem for him.

JEFFREY BROWN: So, to push back a little bit on you here, many doctors have also, of course, complained about the ACA, right, about the — too many regulations, gets in the way of the doctor-patient relationship, takes away choices from patients.

You are also getting some pushback from the White House about that you and other interest groups are opposed because it hits you financially, you doctors financially. What do you respond?

DR. ANDREW GURMAN: Well, there is no question that there are things in the Affordable Care Act that need to be fixed.

There are various ways that that could be done. Repeal and replace is one of them, but we don’t know what the replacement is. So, the AMA has clearly stated that we think that the American people should see what the proposed replacement is, so that we can have a thoughtful discussion regarding whether it’s better or worse than what we have now.

There are many things in the Affordable Care Act that could be fixed, rather than replaced.

JEFFREY BROWN: The repeated claim behind all this, of course, is that Obamacare is collapsing. Do you see that?

DR. ANDREW GURMAN: Well, there’s no question that the markets which were created under the Affordable Care Act need to be stabilized. There are lots of ways to do that.

JEFFREY BROWN: And, finally, the president says we’re going to get through all this, we’re going to get a new health plan.

Do you think that will happen? What will it take to get the AMA on board?

DR. ANDREW GURMAN: Well, the AMA stands ready, willing and eager to work with Congress in order to get this right and to make it work for all Americans.

JEFFREY BROWN: And, again, do you think it will happen?

DR. ANDREW GURMAN: I hope so.

JEFFREY BROWN: You do hope so, even though you oppose what is on the table right now?

DR. ANDREW GURMAN: Oh, I hope that, at the end of this process, that we have a health care system that works for everybody in America.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right.

DR. ANDREW GURMAN: It’s already the envy of the world. We just need to make it work for us.

JEFFREY BROWN: Dr. Andrew Gurman, president of the AMA, thank you.

DR. ANDREW GURMAN: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.

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