US hospitals oppose Trump-backed health bill

By BBC News

A leading trade group representing hospitals has expressed fears about the Republican healthcare bill, saying poor Americans could lose insurance.

The American Hospital Association (AHA) said current provisions for “our most vulnerable” would be thrown into doubt.

President Donald Trump met lawmakers on Wednesday to rally them behind the bill, after a stormy 24 hours.

Moderate Republicans are concerned people will be stripped of cover, while conservatives sense federal overreach.

The bill, called the American Health Care Act, would replace the signature law of President Barack Obama, so-called Obamacare.

It would:

  • limit future federal funding for Medicaid, which covers low-income people
  • abolish the requirement that everyone should be insured
  • replace subsidies with tax credits

Overall, the plan is expected to cover fewer people than those who gained insurance under the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, but we will not know the exact numbers – or the cost – for about another week.

It is now being considered by two congressional committees ahead of its passage through the House and Senate.

What did the hospitals and doctors say about it?

The president of the AHA, which represents about 5,000 hospitals and health networks, said in a letter to Congress that the ability to assess the bill was “severely hampered” by the lack of a proper estimate by the Congressional Budget Office.

But the plans for Medicaid “will have the effect of making significant reductions in a programme that provides services to our most vulnerable populations”, Rick Pollack wrote.

Democrats tweet: If the hospitals are coming out against the GOP health care proposal, you know it desperately needs revision
Image copyrightTWITTER

In a separate letter, a large doctors’ group, the American Medical Association, also urged Congress to reconsider reducing insurance for the poor.

The AARP, a lobbying group for older Americans, has opposed the plan too, saying funding for the Medicare insurance programme for the elderly could be cut.

Who is speaking up for the bill?

House Speaker Paul Ryan praised the bill as “a conservative wish list” and “monumental, exciting conservative reform.”

“This is what we’ve been dreaming about doing,” he told reporters.

President Trump campaigned on repealing Obamacare, which he says has suffered from rising premiums and a lack of choice.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the president was “in full sell mode”.

As well as convincing Americans, he has to first persuade sceptics in his own party.

Republicans control the White House and both chambers of Congress, but it is unclear if they will get enough votes to get the bill through.

The bill will be “dead on arrival” at the doors of the Senate, said Kentucky senator Rand Paul.