Indian-American doctor in Congress rails against GOP healthcare bill, Trump’s Indian-American Medicare chief praises it

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Congressman Dr. Ami Bera, D-California
Seema Mehra, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, being sworn in after being confirmed by the U.S. Senate.Her family and Vice President Mike Pence look on. (Photo: White House)

Two Indian-Americans in important positions differ radically on the new Republican healthcare bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives May 4.

Seema Mehra, Trump’s administrator of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, praised the GOP bill, even as Democratic Congressman Ami Bera, of California, one of the 10 physicians, 8 of them Republicans, in the U.S. House,, lashed out at it warning millions might lose healthcare. The GOP bill passed by a slim margin of 4 votes. An Indian-American physicians body however, has taken a middle path, calling for changes to Obamacare.

Bera said the American Health Care Act, that expects to keep President Trump’s top campaign promise to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, leaves “millions of hardworking Americans “worrying about whether they will be able to stay on their health care plans.  It also eliminates protections for pre-existing conditions, he said. Bera practiced internal medicine, served as Sacramento County’s Chief Medical Officer, and taught at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine, before he was elected to Congress.

“I don’t want to go back to a time when my patients would have to make health care decisions based on their insurance coverage, and this bill is going to make it a lot harder for people with treatable diseases like arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and survivors of cancer and assault to get health care,” he said in a statement after the House passed the bill 2.

“We cannot play politics with people’s lives, and what happened today put political goals ahead of the lives of hardworking Americans.,” Bera said. All four Indian-American lawmakers on Capitol Hill voted against the Republican bill.

Meanwhile, Mehra, a 20-year veteran in the healthcare industry, called it a “historic” day as the country moves “toward patient-centered healthcare instead of government-centered healthcare.”

“I have worked in the field of Medicaid for 20 years and have heard from many mothers like myself who have shared their struggles and their hopes for a more affordable, more sustainable healthcare system,” Mehra said in a statement May 4 after the passing of the bill in the House.  “It is important that our most vulnerable citizens, the aged, the infirm, the blind and the disabled have more choices, greater access and peace of mind when it comes to their healthcare,” she added.

“The bill that was passed today is a great first step achieving this goal,” Mehra claimed.

The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin however, has taken a measured stand  calling on Congress to “Amend not end” the existing system under Obamacare. The AAPI, during its Legislative Day May 3, on Capitol Hill, urged lawmakers to increase the number of residency slots, foreseeing a shortage of doctors in the future; reforming the Stark law relating to physician referrals for Medicare and Medicaid patients;  and allowing the selling of insurance across state lines.

Meanwhile, the nation’s premier medical body, the American Medical Association, strongly opposed the bill saying if it were to become law, “millions of Americans would lose health insurance coverage, and the safety net provided by Medicaid would be severely eroded.” It also criticized “Last-minute changes” to the bill allowing states to apply for waivers from critical consumer protections under current law and providing additional funding for high-risk pools and reinsurance mechanisms, saying those changes “failed to remedy the fundamental flaws of the bill.”  Six other specialty medical associations also issued a statement against the bill.

 

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