Thursday, January 19, 2017

Coalition of Students Unite Against ACA Repeal

A group of medical students recently organized a campaign advocating against a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, creating a petition signed by more than 4600 medical students from 150 medical schools across the country.

The group that worked on this campaign, Yale Healthcare Coalition, consists of medical students and faculty, nursing students and faculty, public health students, law students, as well as Yale undergraduate and graduate students. The Coalition was formed following the 2016 President election out of concern for the future of health care in the U.S, and took on a sense of urgency following a campus-wide post-election strategy session hosted at Yale Law School on November 14, 2016.

In an op-ed that followed the petition, a group of medical students sought to provide a voice from future health care providers to a broader audience and to put public pressure on Senators whose votes could make a difference for the health of patients nationwide.

“We are the next generation of physicians in this country and we are going to have to practice medicine in whatever system comes out of the current debate,” said Samara Fox, a Yale School of Medicine student who helped organize the campaign. “We feel a moral and professional obligation to add our voice to that debate and speak out about the true human cost of repealing the ACA.”

Professor Abbe Gluck ’00, Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the Solomon Center for Health Law & Policy at Yale Law School, said having the voices of future medical professionals is an important component to advocating for a fair and just healthcare system for all.

“In about 3 weeks they managed to do something spectacular— getting more than 4500 med student signatures for their petition from over 150 med school‎s, and then getting an op-ed published to call attention to it,” said Gluck. “It's a very impressive accomplishment and one we should all be quite proud of.”

The petition and op-ed came about following a talk at the Yale School of Medicine organized by Ike Lee, a first-year medical student and Solomon Center student fellow, who arranged for Professor Gluck to talk to students on Dec. 12, 2016 about ACA reform. Lee said the talk came about after he noticed that a lot of medical students were looking for more exposure to health law and policy.

At the talk, Professor Gluck was asked what health professional students could do to contribute to the fight to save the ACA.

“I suggested a show of strength by medical students, through a petition, because historically the American Medical Association hasn't been the greatest friend to health reform and it seems important for the younger generation of doctors to make clear they want to be part of the solution and won't accept 30 million people losing access to health care,” said Gluck.

“We were inspired by her idea and wrote the ‘Do No Harm’ petition,” said Fox.  The petition urged Congress to follow the first tenet of medicine and refrain from harming the 30 million people who would lose health insurance if the ACA were fully repealed and the many more whose health would be jeopardized if the health insurance market were destabilized by an uncertain health policy landscape. The petition was circulated as part of the #ProtectOurPatients campaign.

Since the campaign began, Fox said the response has been very positive.

“The petition helped us to build a network of concerned students and served as a catalyst for our campaign's ongoing actions on campuses all over the country, including rallies and phone banks to contact senators,” said Fox. “We delivered the petition to all 100 senators in D.C. as part of our Day of Action on January 9th, and we met in person with many of those senators or their staff to discuss our concerns.”

Gluck said that the effort shows how interconnected Yale's health law and policy program is with students across a range of academic disciplines engaged in making a positive impact on policy issues.

“I am delighted by the deepening connections between the Solomon Center and the Medical School,” said Gluck. “Yale medical students are special because, like Yalies all around, they tend to be very interested in public policy, justice and the broader world.”

Fox said student organizers hope that this campaign will shine a light on the importance of keeping and improving the Affordable Care Act to protect patients and save lives.

“We all have seen patients who have benefited from the ACA, and we all know patients who will suffer if it is repealed,” said Fox. “We also feel that thanks to the ACA, the baseline has shifted for what is considered morally acceptable regarding the accessibility of health insurance and health care in the United States. To roll back the strides that have been made by the ACA would do harm to that progress and to our future patients.”