Statement from Sharad Lakhanpal, MBBS, MD, President of the American College of Rheumatology:

Newswise — “The American College of Rheumatology is committed to improving healthcare insurance access and affordability for the 54 million Americans living with chronic, debilitating and painful rheumatic diseases. The ACR has outlined specific provisions that would need to be included in an ACA replacement bill to ensure Americans have continued access to rheumatology care that lowers long-term costs and helps patients manage pain, avoid long-term disability, remain active in the workforce, and preserve their quality of life.

“After carefully reviewing the text of the American Health Care Act, we are encouraged to see several key provisions are maintained – namely; no exclusions for pre-existing illness, continued limits on patient copayments, caps on out-of-pocket costs, coverage for children on a parent’s insurance until age 26, and a ban on lifetime limits – that are critical to ensure our patients can continue to access and afford their healthcare.

“However, we are concerned that some provisions of the AHCA could make it harder for our patients to access rheumatology care. The proposed tax credits based on age rather than income may be insufficient for many rheumatic disease patients to obtain adequate private health insurance coverage. We are also concerned by a provision that would allow insurers to impose a 30 percent premium increase for 12 months for those who have let coverage lapse for more than 63 days. The AHCA also does not address ACR’s recommendations to minimize the administrative burden on doctors and to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). These provisions would go a long way toward ensuring a thriving rheumatology workforce and continued patient access to care.

“We look forward to working with Congressional leaders and the Administration to address these concerns and will continue to provide input on proposed legislation to ensure continued access to vital rheumatology healthcare services.”

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The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) is the nation's leading advocacy organization for the rheumatology care community, representing more than 9,500 rheumatologists and rheumatology health professionals. As an ethically driven, professional membership organization committed to improving healthcare for Americans living with rheumatic diseases, the ACR advocates for high-quality, high-value policies and reforms that will ensure safe, effective, affordable and accessible rheumatology care.