AAHIVM Comments on Passage of “Extremely Harmful” Health Bill by House of Representatives

AAHIVM Comments on Passage of “Extremely Harmful” Health Bill by House of Representatives

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The American Academy of HIV Medicine (AAHIVM), the nation’s largest HIV care provider organization, condemned the House of Representatives for yesterday’s passage of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), a bill to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), by a vote of 217 – 214.

The AHCA passed after a week of last-minute compromises and changes to the Republican legislation proposed last month, which faltered initially. The amendments proposed this week were not able to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office, and so the vote took place with no information on the cost of the bill, or the impact it will have on patient access and coverage.

“I am disappointed that the House of Representatives just passed a healthcare bill that will ultimately be extremely harmful for millions of Americans,” said James M. Friedman, AAHIVM Executive Director.  “What’s most troubling is they passed this bill without any data from the Congressional Budget Office. It’s obvious that this rush to judgment is just to satisfy a purely arbitrary deadline based on their vacation schedule and political perception. However, for people living with HIV, this has very real consequences.”

The AHCA puts the health of people living with or at risk for HIV and/or hepatitis C in jeopardy by reducing affordable insurance coverage options for millions of Americans and ending protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

If enacted, the bill would stand to harm to people living with pre-existing conditions, such as those with HIV or hepatitis C, by allowing insurance companies to go back to pre-ACA rules and charge people higher premiums because of their health status. It will also permit states to waive Essential Health Benefits requirements, meaning that insurers will no longer be required to provide the services people living with and at risk for HIV and hepatitis C need to stay healthy, including prescription drugs, mental and behavioral health services, and preventive services.

“Reason and compassion have been replaced by politics and egos,” stated Margaret Hoffman-Terry, MD, FACP, AAHIVS, chair of the AAHIVM Board of Directors. “The President promised better healthcare at less cost. The bill that the House of Representatives just passed will deprive many of my patients of their healthcare benefits and protections, while at the same time charging more. This is a monumental step in the wrong direction.”

The bill would also effectively end the Medicaid expansion and significantly reduce federal Medicaid funding. These cuts will force states to limit eligibility, benefits, and important consumer protections for individuals eligible for Medicaid.

The bill also eliminates funding for vital services provided by the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which funds 12% of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s budget.

“The role of any democratically elected government is to improve the lives of the people that it serves,” said Friedman. “In the words of Hippocrates, the job of healthcare is to ‘First do no harm.’  It seems to me that tens of millions of people losing health insurance is doing a lot of harm.”

The bill next moves to the Republican-held Senate, where it needs just a simple majority to pass. However, many Senators on both sides of the aisle have expressed concern with the bill.

“We urge the Senate to keep their promise to ensure that the most vulnerable Americans do not lose access to life-saving prevention, care, and treatment,” Friedman concluded.

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The American Academy of HIV Medicine is a professional organization that supports the HIV practitioner and promotes accessible, quality care for all Americans living with HIV disease. Our membership of HIV practitioners and credentialed providers give direct care to more than three-fourths of HIV patients in the US.