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Tom Price Comments on AHCA Impact on Patient Access to Care

The HHS Secretary stated that the AHCA will expand patient access to care. Critics say the increased uninsured rate will limit patient healthcare access.

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- HHS Secretary Tom Price, MD, has released an official statement explaining how the American Health Care Act (AHCA) will support the patient-provider relationship and expand patient access to care.

According to Secretary Price, the AHCA will improve the patient provider relationship by giving patients more control over their healthcare coverage and where they can seek care.

“The American Health Care Act will restore, protect and preserve the doctor-patient relationship — the trusting partnership that is fundamental to quality healthcare,” Price said. “Our reform effort will ensure patients and physicians are the ones making medical decisions, not Washington, and provide relief to those being harmed by the current healthcare system.”

Price reiterated that the AHCA will expand health savings account (HSA) use. The bill increases HSA contribution limits, which theoretically will enable patients to save more money to put toward their healthcare.

The Secretary also claimed the bill will allow patients to select their own health plans without regulatory intervention.

“We will end the ‘Washington knows best’ mentality of picking winners and losers among patients,” Price said. “Instead, patients will have the freedom to choose the coverage that is right for them. That could be a comprehensive plan with a broad network, an HMO plan, or a catastrophic plan that allows the patient to shop around to get the best deal on routine medical expenses.”

Additionally, he said the bill will allow market forces to drive down health plan premiums, therefore making it easier for patients to access affordable care when health crises arise.

According to Price, government intervention via the Affordable Care Act drove deductibles too high. Patients with deductibles set at $6000 may not be able to afford recommended treatments, Price argued, asserting that market forces should determine deductibles and premiums.

The AHCA also includes the Patient and State Stability Fund, which the Secretary claimed will allow states to create their own patient healthcare access strategies.

Price asserted that government overreach in the Affordable Care Act has adversely affected patient care and patient-provider relationships.

“The Affordable Care Act has given Washington more power and authority over healthcare, leaving patients and providers with less freedom over medical decisions,” Price said. “Whenever the federal government thinks it knows better than a patient and their doctor about what they need, quality of care is compromised.”

This statement followed a listening session during which patients, providers, and other stakeholders shared their healthcare experiences since the ACA’s passage. President Trump and Vice President Pence joined Secretary Price for the listening session.

“The doctor-patient relationship is the most sacred part of our entire healthcare system,” Price said of the session. “The personal stories we heard today are further evidence that under the current healthcare law, that relationship is being undermined.”

The bill’s critics say that the AHCA may not boost patient access to care. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently released its assessment of the bill stating that by 2018 the AHCA could leave 14 million Americans uninsured.

“Today’s estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office underscore the AMA’s concerns about the AHCA as it is written: If this bill were to become law, CBO projects 14 million Americans who have gained coverage in recent years could lose it in 2018. For the AMA, that outcome is unacceptable,” said Andrew W. Gurman, MD, President of the American Medical Association.

The AMA previously expressed trepidation regarding the AHCA’s effect on patient access to care, stating that the organization cannot support a bill that will bar patients from gaining healthcare coverage.