The American College of Physicians (ACP), representing 152,000 internal medicine physicians and medical students, has been front and center in the national debates on health care reform, according to Robert Doherty, the ACP’s Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs and Public Policy. The ACP is the largest physician specialty society and second largest medical organization in the United States. Its President is longtime LDI Senior Fellow Jack Ende, MD, MACP.

Robert Doherty is Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs and Public Policy for the American College of Physicians.

In a timely LDI seminar, Doherty outlined the ACP’s response to GOP reform proposals: “Before the election, most of us who advocate for doctors and patients anticipated a future of advocating for continued expansion of coverage, building and improving on the ACA. Since the election, we have had to devote much of our efforts to stopping the GOP effort to roll back coverage by repealing and replacing the ACA.”

Most recently, the ACP released statements opposing the Graham-Cassidy bill. He noted that the bill, if passed, would cause patients with pre-existing and new conditions to lose coverage, end Medicaid as an entitlement program, and require states to create entirely new health care systems by 2020.

The ACP is also part of a six-member coalition of professional groups representing 560,000 physicians. This coalition has met with and urged the US Senate to include essential benefits and a public option in plans to stabilize the health insurance markets. The ACP is also advocating for a five-year reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which expires at the end of September.

Doherty highlighted the ACP’s advocacy on broader issues in science and public health, including climate change and substance use disorder prevention and treatment. The ACP continues to call for more funding for the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

In light of how “President Trump and his administration have made statements and pursued policies [that] raise questions about their commitment to diversity and non-discrimination,” Doherty underscored the ACP’s longstanding opposition to discrimination of all forms. In response to the Executive Order on immigration, for example, the ACP and 21 other health professional organizations filed an amicus brief with the US Supreme Court. The ACP also has released position statements on hate crime, the gender pay gap in medicine, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender health disparities. Most recently, it opposed the Administration’s decision to end the federal government’s program of deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA).

For the ACP and the physicians it represents, Doherty said, providing “the best possible care at the bedside” remains a priority. But this priority has a policy component, and he stressed a newfound “passion for advocacy” in the physician community.  “It is important to mobilize that passion to defend patient care in all ways,” he concluded.