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Friday Mar 06, 2015

On the Hill: Academy Promoting Family Medicine's Perspective

The AAFP Board of Directors spent a day lobbying last week on Capitol Hill. We each met with legislators and congressional staff from our own states, meaning that the offices of representatives and senators from more than a dozen states heard about issues critical to primary care.

Although the conversations undoubtedly varied, many of the topics covered in our meetings were the same. We asked Congress to do the following:

  • Avoid the 21 percent Medicare payment cut scheduled to take place April 1 and work to repeal and replace the flawed sustainable growth rate formula;
  • Reauthorize and adequately fund the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program, which is responsible for training more than 500 residents at 60 residency programs in two dozen states;
  • Reform graduate medical education funding; and
  • Increase Medicaid payments for primary care.

Photo courtesy Architect of the Capitol

Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., whose husband is a physician, was receptive to my message about the need for action on these pressing issues. And, although members of the Board covered a lot of common ground about payment and education in our separate meetings, my meeting with Kelly also offered a chance to discuss important clinical issues.

Kelly serves as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus(cbc-butterfield.house.gov) (CBC) Health Brain Trust, which collaborates with stakeholders in the health care system to address issues of health equity. Some of the Health Braintrust's priorities (robinkelly.house.gov) overlap with those of the AAFP, including addressing social determinants of health, expanding access to primary care and tackling health disparities.

In addition to the CBC's legislative efforts to address health equity, the group's Health Braintrust supports research related to how education, economic stability and neighborhood affect a person's health. The group also hosts health fairs across the country and annually hosts a fall health policy event organized as part of the CBC's Annual Legislative Conference, as well as a spring forum on health disparities. It also holds monthly meetings with health advocates and policy experts.

When opportunities present themselves to promote primary care and advocate for our practices and our patients, we have to seize those opportunities. The CBC was seeking feedback on a number of health issues, and the Academy provided this group -- which includes nearly 50 members of the House and Senate -- with as much information as possible.

In addition to my meeting with Kelly on Feb. 25, Academy staff participated in a Feb. 27 Health Braintrust roundtable meeting that included Kelly, congressional staff, advocates and representatives from the American Hospital Association, Morehouse School of Medicine, the National Medical Association, the National Urban League and others.

With such a diverse group, the latter meeting covered a wide range of topics, including access issues associated with health care reform and technology. In addition, the forum addressed public health issues such as federal nutrition standards, healthy communities, health disparities and violence prevention. The Health Braintrust sought feedback on its agenda and how to address these issues. The group plans to continue to engage stakeholders and generate short-term and long-term goals for health priorities, and we were eager to provide family medicine's perspective.

For our issues to be addressed, it's important for legislators to hear from their constituents. It's worth noting that hundreds of family physicians from across the country will be in Washington May 12-13 for the Family Medicine Congressional Conference. That event offers a full day of advocacy training followed by a day on Capitol Hill. It's not too late to lend your voice.

Javette Orgain, M.D., M.P.H., is vice speaker of the AAFP Congress of Delegates.

Posted at 04:04PM Mar 06, 2015 by Javette Orgain, M.D.

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