AAFP Statement: Affordable Health Choices Act Promises Meaningful, Sustainable Reform

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Statement attributable to:
Ted Epperly, MD
American Academy of Family Physicians

“America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives marks an important step forward in establishing comprehensive, meaningful and sustainable health care reform.

“This legislation will move the country a long way toward rebuilding the primary care foundation on which high quality, cost-effective health care is built. It will help ensure that patients have health care coverage in a patient-centered medical home where their primary care physicians can coordinate their medical and health care services, help them manage their own health care and offer preventive health care. It will align financial support for this system and it will move toward ensuring the adequacy of our primary care physician workforce.

“The AAFP applauds provisions that reform the insurance industry by guaranteeing coverage — regardless of medical history, health status or age. We support the requirement that all Americans have health coverage. By giving Americans a choice of health plans through their employer, their current private market options, or a health exchange where they can shop for a public or private health plan, compare benefits and prices, this bill opens the door to broader health care coverage.

By eliminating the accumulated debt that the Medicare physician payment formula has created and establishing a new system for future Medicare payment updates, this legislation helps ensure that elderly and disabled Americans will continue to have access to physicians.

We appreciate the 5 percent bonus payments for the evaluation and management services that are essential to preventive care, early diagnosis and treatment, coordination of services and management of chronic conditions. We are concerned that this payment is inadequate to address the goal of bringing more medical students to primary care and we continue to request that Congress increase this payment to 10 percent. We commend the committees for easing geographic disparities by increasing that incentive to 10 percent for primary care services provided in health professions shortage areas.

“Moreover, the Affordable Health Choices Act will begin rebuilding the primary care physician workforce by providing incentives that value prevention, coordination and continuity of care, management of chronic conditions, appropriate referrals, and evidence-based health services. Taken together, these elements define the patient-centered medical home.

“In addition, this legislation recognizes that sustainable health system reform depends on a strong primary care workforce. The AAFP commends the committees for working to encourage medical students to enter primary care professions through improved medical student loan provisions and increased support for National Health Service Corps programs. Equally important is the bill’s support for primary care training programs and increased academic capacity in primary care.

“Only by building our health care system on the foundation of primary care can we hope to achieve higher quality, less fragmentation and duplication, better controlled costs, and higher patient satisfaction and outcomes.

“By reforming the insurance market, ensuring appropriate and predictable payment for health care services, and establishing policies that will restore our primary medical care workforce, this legislation will do much to ensure that our system meets those needs.

“We must take advantage of this historic opportunity for change and enact meaningful, sustainable, comprehensive health care reform.”

Editor’s note: To arrange an interview with Ted Epperly, MD, contact Leslie Champlin, at 800-274-2237, Ext. 5224, or lchampli@aafp.org.

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Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 124,900 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care.

Family physicians conduct approximately one in five office visits -- that’s 192 million visits annually or 48 percent more than the next most visited medical specialty. Today, family physicians provide more care for America’s underserved and rural populations than any other medical specialty. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focused on integrated care.

To learn more about the specialty of family medicine, the AAFP's positions(5 page PDF) on issues and clinical care, and for downloadable multi-media highlighting family medicine, visit
www.aafp.org/media. For information about health care, health conditions and wellness, please visit the AAFP’s award-winning consumer website, www.FamilyDoctor.org(www.familydoctor.org).