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By Robert Donachie
House lawmakers gear up to vote on the American Health Care Act (AHCA) Thursday afternoon, Emergency room physicians are voicing their concerns to members of Congress, urging them to vote “no” on the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.
E.R. doctors say the AHCA strips features of Obamacare that secured emergency room services as an essential health benefit. If the AHCA passes, they warn U.S. health care consumers will be left with higher costs for emergency treatment.
“The Affordable Care Act included emergency services as an essential health benefit and any replacement legislation must do the same,” American College Of Emergency Physicians President Dr. Rebecca Parker said in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Dr. Parker argues that any replacement legislation should protect consumers access to emergency care at an affordable price. “Patients can’t choose where and when they will need emergency care and they shouldn’t be punished financially for having emergencies,” Dr. Parker said. “Federal legislation must ensure that patients having emergencies can seek emergency care knowing their insurer will provide coverage.”
Thursday’s vote will be the first test for House leadership to see if they have the votes to pass one of President Donald Trump’s chief campaign promises, The Wall Street Journal reports. Trump and Speaker Ryan pulled the AHCA just hours before it was slated to go up for a vote in March.
Leadership has spent weeks courting wayward conservative and moderate Republicans behind the repeal effort. House Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows and Tuesday Group Leader Rep. Tom MacArthur put forth an amendment in April that is serving as the basis of the new AHCA.
The version would slash many of the Obamacare taxes and subsidies, and cut funding to Medicaid — likely to be a point of contention for House Democrats. Another point of debate for Democrats will be that the millions of Americans who obtain health insurance through their employer could be at risk of losing protections that limit out-of-pocket costs for emergency and catastrophic illnesses.
If the AHCA passes the House Thursday, it will move on to the Senate for a vote. As it stands, Senate Republicans remain divided on the AHCA. Republicans hold a slim majority in the Senate with 52 seats, so they can’t afford to lose more than 2 votes.