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Tuesday Oct 13, 2015

Support the Primary Care Caucus

A congressional caucus is a group of legislators that meets to pursue common objectives. Formally, caucuses are formed as congressional member organizations (CMOs) through the U.S. House of Representatives and governed under the rules of that chamber.

There are more than 100 Congressional Caucuses, and there already are several pertaining to health care -- including the Arthritis Caucus, the Academic Medicine Caucus, the Rural Health Caucus, the Disability Caucus and the Affordable Medicine Caucus. Then there is the always important Bourbon and Wine Caucuses and -- my favorite -- the Internet of Things Caucus.

Throughout history, however, there has never been a congressional caucus devoted to primary care. On Oct. 8, that changed.

I am pleased to inform you that Rep. David Rouzer (R-N.C.) and Congressman Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) have launched the Bipartisan Congressional Primary Care Caucus. The AAFP was honored to participate in the formal launch, which took place as part of a Congressional briefing entitled “The Impact of Primary Care on Rural and Urban Underserved Communities.” In addition to the events on Oct. 8, Rouzer and Courtney recorded a video(video.house.gov) message announcing the formation of the Primary Care Caucus and outlining their motivations.

The formation of the Primary Care Caucus is a significant and important development for the AAFP and primary care. The AAFP strongly supports the Primary Care Caucus and applauds Rouzer and Courtney for their leadership. We are excited to partner with the caucus to inform and educate members of Congress and the public on issues of importance to family medicine and primary care.

The AAFP has launched a Speak Out campaign aimed at encouraging other members of Congress to join and support the Caucus. You can learn more about the caucus and send a letter to your representative urging them to join by using Speak Out. Also, follow the activities of the caucus on Twitter using #PrimaryCareCaucus.

ICD-10
On Oct. 1, physicians and other health care providers were required to convert their billing systems from ICD-9 to ICD-10. The AAFP is carefully monitoring the situation and we are eager to learn how your practice is handling the transition and if you are having any challenges. You can submit your feedback through our practice management resource page. Information you provide will assist the AAFP in our advocacy on your behalf


Wonk Hard
The Commonwealth Fund has released its annual report on health care(www.commonwealthfund.org) entitled “U.S. Health Care from a Global Perspective: Spending, Use of Services, Prices, and Health in 13 Countries.” The Commonwealth Fund, using data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), analyzed health care spending, supply, utilization, prices and health outcomes from 13 high-income countries: Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. It is important to note that the data used in this report is from 2013, the year prior to the full implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

So what did the report find?

Well, our trend of higher spending and lower quality continues. On average, the United States spent $9,086 per person on health care in 2013 -- the highest of the 13 countries. The next highest per person spend was Switzerland at $6,325. The lowest was the United Kingdom at $3,364 per person. Although the spending is concerning, what is even more troubling is the fact that despite spending significantly more on health care, the United States has a significantly lower life expectancy as compared to the other countries. In 2013, the life expectancy in the United States was 78.8 years. Switzerland was 82.9 years. The highest life expectancy is found in Japan at 83.4 years.

The authors suggest that higher spending in the United States is largely driven by greater use of technology and higher prices per health care service, rather than an over-utilization of physician services. The report found that the average person in the United States saw a physician four times in the evaluation year, which landed the U.S. in the bottom third of physician utilization of the evaluated countries. The highest number of annual physician visits was 12.9 in Japan. The lowest was 2.9 visits per year in Switzerland.

This report is important because it continues to shed light on what has been a consistent finding over several years -- the U.S. spends significantly more per person but has not improved long-term quality outcomes or life expectancy as a result of such spending. I will suggest that those countries that have lower spending and high life expectancy all have one thing in common as compared to the U.S. They place a much greater emphasis on primary care.

Posted at 07:00AM Oct 13, 2015 by Shawn Martin

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Shawn Martin, AAFP Senior Vice President of Advocacy, Practice Advancement and Policy.

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The opinions and views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the opinions and views of the American Academy of Family Physicians. This blog is not intended to provide medical, financial, or legal advice. All comments are moderated and will be removed if they violate our Terms of Use.