AAMC Statement on the Lower Health Care Costs Act

AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, MD, issued the following statement in response to the Lower Health Care Costs Act (S. 1895) passed today by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), which includes provisions that could limit patient access to care:

“The AAMC appreciates and supports the Senate HELP Committee’s interest in protecting patients from surprise medical bills but is dismayed they have chosen to address this problem through rate setting. We are very concerned about potential unintended consequences, and that the current version of this bill could keep patients from accessing the high-quality, effective care that is available only at teaching hospitals.

Teaching hospitals care for a disproportionate share of vulnerable patients with complex conditions for whom the costs of care are higher. Legislating rates at which insurers reimburse hospitals for this care would disincentivize insurers from negotiating with providers. It also could adversely impact patient access to academic medical centers and decrease the number of providers included in a particular insurance network.

In addition, Section 302 of the bill would allow insurers to create networks that exclude teaching hospitals, thus restricting patients’ ability to seek care at these facilities that provide a number of vital services unavailable elsewhere. For example, while they only represent 5% of hospitals nationwide, AAMC-member teaching hospitals operate 98% of all Comprehensive Cancer Centers, 68% of all level-one trauma centers, and 63% of all pediatric intensive care units. The availability of these services – and the high-quality care provided at teaching hospitals – result in up to 20% higher odds of survival for patients treated at these institutions when compared to those treated at other hospitals. Reducing access to these institutions puts the health of patients at risk and increases costs to the patient should they seek the care they need outside of their insurance network.

The AAMC strongly urges the full Senate to reject these provisions. We look forward to working with the Committee and other lawmakers to address health care costs and strengthen the nation’s health.”

The Association of American Medical Colleges is a not-for-profit association dedicated to transforming health care through innovative medical education, cutting-edge patient care, and groundbreaking medical research. Its members are all 154 accredited U.S. and 17 accredited Canadian medical schools; nearly 400 major teaching hospitals and health systems, including 51 Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers; and more than 80 academic societies. Through these institutions and organizations, the AAMC serves the leaders of America’s medical schools and teaching hospitals and their more than 173,000 full-time faculty members, 89,000 medical students, 129,000 resident physicians, and more than 60,000 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in the biomedical sciences.