As Congress considers steps that could reshape the nation's health care landscape, the AAFP is encouraging legislators to avoid action that will make it more difficult for family physicians to care for their patients.
The AAFP spoke out twice last week to raise warnings and remind legislators that they can count on the Academy for expert advice on solutions that will bring the changes that the health care system requires.
On May 23, AAFP President John Meigs, M.D., of Centreville, Ala., issued a statement to call attention to elements of the administration's 2018 budget request that would weaken programs that are necessary to create an effective, efficient health care system.
"Slashing funds for the critical federal agencies that oversee the health care industry -- 17 percent of the U.S. economy -- destabilizes the foundation of services on which patients depend," Meigs said. "Damage to health care services, safety and research will cascade into the viability and effectiveness of other AAFP priorities."
The proposed cuts would be felt both by individuals and entire communities.
Specifically, major cuts to CMS funding would undermine the health security of nearly 60 million elderly Medicare beneficiaries and nearly 75 million adults and children who rely on Medicaid. The agency also needs adequate resources to "continue to transform the Medicare payment system into one that is based on quality and healthy outcomes and that ultimately will rein in the increasing cost of health care," Meigs said.
Other proposed funding reductions would have long-term negative impacts. Cutting the budget of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality would make it more difficult for the agency to conduct primary care research that improves safety and reduces cost. Eliminating the Primary Care Training and Enhancement program "will seriously damage primary care at a time when the nation is grappling with a primary care physician shortage," Meigs said.
The day after the AAFP offered these comments on the budget, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its report(www.cbo.gov) on the American Health Care Act that the House of Representatives passed this month. The Academy highlighted important sections of the CBO's analysis in a statement issued on May 24.
If the bill is enacted as written, the CBO reported, 23 million Americans -- including 3 million individuals with employer-sponsored coverage and 14 million Medicaid beneficiaries -- would lose their insurance coverage. Further, one-sixth of the U.S. population would face the loss of meaningful coverage because they live in states that are expected to allow insurers to discriminate based on gender, age and health status. Cuts to the Medicaid program would deprive 14 million low-income individuals -- including children and elderly patients -- of care.
In the statement, Meigs reminded legislators that the AAFP stands ready to help Congress improve the health care system.
"We call on the U.S. Senate to do the right thing for patients by working to achieve real bipartisan solutions," he said.