(Originally posted on the National Physicians Alliance blog November 4, 2012)
Physicians must care about our patients. In every decision we make
and each action we take, the health and wellness of our patients and our
communities must be at the center of what we do. The Affordable Care
Act (ACA) will make your healthcare better.
Our organization--the National Physicians Alliance (NPA)--was formed
in 2005 and is committed to advancing the core values of the medical
profession: service, integrity, and advocacy. The organization has key guiding principles that
focus on putting our patients health and wellness above all other
concerns. NPA's advocacy has emphasized the need to ensure patient
protection and to repair the broken covenant that
our nation's healthcare system must benefit all Americans. Our
commitment and our obligation to care for our patients is limited by
many factors: insurance company policies that restrict the care we can
provide, health disparities that persist despite individual efforts to
address them, and a lack of insurance that limits access to health
insurance and healthcare.
As a result of NPA's determination to ensure equitable and affordable healthcare for all Americans,
the organization has worked to secure the passage of the ACA and to
advocate for its full implementation. In keeping with NPA's guiding
principles, our support of the ACA has been focused on the benefits the
law provides to patients as well as its protection of the doctor-patient
relationship we hold as a sacred responsibility as professionals.
How does the ACA protect patients?
The ACA provides important benefits for ALL Americans: The ACA provides multiple benefits for the middle class. Considering the major role that healthcare costs play in personal bankruptcies
(PDF), it is clear that ensuring the affordability of healthcare
provides a crucial protection for middle class Americans. Affordable
insurance--made more so by government support to help lower income
families and changes in insurance enrollment that are predicted to
reduce the cost for all--will allow most Americans to see the health benefits of having health insurance
(PDF). Adult children will now be able to stay on parents' insurance
policies until they are 26 years old, thereby enhancing their ability to
access health insurance
while in school and starting out in the workforce. Coupled with
reforms that will remove limits on annual and lifetime coverage benefits
for patients, Americans will be better protected as they look to move
into the middle class and secure a better future for themselves and
their families. In addition, preventive care services including
vaccines, pap smears, colonoscopies, and other necessary services will
be made available to Americans without requiring co-pays, making them
more available than ever before.
The ACA promotes fairness and equality in medical care: The ACA reverses one of the most egregious facts of healthcare insurance in the US: the fact that a person's gender was the basis for charging women more for health insurance than men. This difference exists only because a woman was a woman, and is not due to specific coverage (PDF) such as for pregnancy or maternity care. The ACA will also target national healthcare inequalities
by strengthening the nation's community health centers, increasing the
number of physicians working in medically underserved areas by increasing National Health Service Corps scholarships. Finally, the ACA begins to address our national need for more primary care physicians and move towards a healthcare workforce that is accessible to all.
The ACA protects patients from insurance company abuses:
Thanks to the ACA, insurance companies will have less control over
patients' healthcare. Insurers will be required to offer insurance to
everyone regardless of whether or not they have a preexisting medical
condition--a benefit that has already gone into effect for children
and is planned to go into effect for adults in 2014. The ACA prevents
insurance companies from setting arbitrary limits to patients' lifetime
health insurance benefits, and as of 2014 will eliminate annual limits
to care. Insurance companies are required to spend 80-85% of members' premiums on providing benefits to those members,
as opposed to using that money for administrative costs or executive
salaries. The ACA bans the practice of rescissions, in which insurance
companies would seek reasons to retroactively cancel members' insurance
coverage once those members became ill and most needed the protection.
The ACA provides greater governmental scrutiny of unreasonable insurance rate hikes,
helping insure that Americans are not being harmed by insurers
willfully increasing policy costs without reason or justification.
Finally, by establishing health insurance marketplaces (or exchanges),
the ACA will require all insurers to show the purchasers of their
products--our patients--that the companies are effective and responsive
to their customers' needs or they will risk patients finding coverage
elsewhere. This should increase transparency and provide greater
benefits to patients who will be able to vote with their feet and leave
ineffective companies to look for better options.
The NPA is not the only physician organization to support the ACA. The law is also supported by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and the American Osteopathic Association.
The reasons all of these physician groups support the ACA is simple.
As physicians, the law's reforms allow us to provide better care for
our patients--without being limited by insurance regulations or lack of
access to health insurance. The ACA removes important barriers to care,
and lets us get back to the core focus of our profession: the covenant
to do whatever we can to improve our patients' health and wellness.