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U.S. Rep. James McGovern, local health care leaders discuss impact of Affordable Care Act repeal

Policymakers, thought leaders and advocates convened by UMass Medical School and UMass Memorial Medical Center

Speaking to a packed room of local health care leaders at UMass Medical School on Wednesday, Jan. 18, U.S. Rep. James McGovern (D-MA 2nd District) encouraged the crowd to join the Massachusetts congressional delegation in pressing Congress to maintain the Affordable Care Act. Since its enactment in 2010, the ACA legislation has resulted in an almost 50 percent reduction in the number of uninsured Americans, and provided coverage of essential health services such as contraception and preventive care for all. The Republican-controlled Congress is working toward a vote to repeal the legislation within weeks of Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration and the timeline for a replacement remains uncertain.

“We all have to, as a team, be in their face and make a good case for why we have a good system,” said Rep. McGovern. “If health care leaders speak up, we have a chance of tweaking instead of repealing.”

McGovern made the remarks as the special guest at a panel discussion organized by UMass Memorial Health Care and UMMS about the impact of repealing or significantly altering the ACA. Speaking from their respective vantage points as policymakers, executives and advocates, panelists reflected concerns about the impacts of repeal on hospitals, the health care work force, federally funded community health centers serving the underserved, state government’s ability to care for its neediest citizens and, above all, each and every patient in the commonwealth.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported that the repeal of portions of the ACA law would lead to at least 18 million people losing health insurance in the first year, a figure that would grow to as many as 32 million uninsured by 2026. Millions more would lose coverage mandated by the ACA, such as right to care for those with pre-existing conditions or the right to coverage under parents’ policies for children up to age 26.

“As a physician and health policy specialist, what concerns me the most is that [while) the ACA has really done a fantastic job at increasing access to affordable health care to so many . . . 60 million people could be affected by repeal,” said Jay Himmelstein, MD, MPH, chief federal strategist for Commonwealth Medicine at UMMS and professor of family medicine & community health. “The impact is enormous and immediate if the repeal efforts as currently constructed go through.”

Hear more from McGovern and Dr. Himmelstein in the video.

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