AAFP Statement: Affordable Health Choices Act Marks the Beginning of Action

Friday, June 12, 2009

Statement attributable to:
Ted Epperly, M.D.
American Academy of Family Physicians

“Americans have talked about, criticized, pondered and worried about health care for more than two decades. Policy makers, economists, lawmakers and patient advocates have called for health care reform for more than 15 years. The introduction of the Affordable Health Choices Act marks the beginning of action.

“The American Academy of Family Physicians commends the Senate HELP Committee for crafting a proposal that promises to meet many of the nation’s health reform goals.

“This proposal would implement the most important elements of sustainable and meaningful health care reform: the use of the patient-centered medical home and an emphasis on preventive services and chronic care management.

“The patient-centered medical home model will ensure that patients have a personal, primary care physician who serves as the first contact for preventive and routine care and who ensures that patients get the full range of medical care if they develop complex or chronic conditions.

“With its support of electronic medical records to improve care coordination among all members of the health care team, the Affordable Health Choices Act promises additional efficiencies.

“Taken together, these provisions will do much to reduce duplication and fragmentation of care that result in overuse of services, medical errors and higher costs.

“Moreover, the Affordable Health Choices Act works to ensure that Americans will have access to the right care at the right time in the right place. The proposal’s call for medical school scholarships and loan repayment programs will ease the pressure of medical school debt and help encourage medical students to choose primary medical care careers. It aims to ensure an adequate supply of primary care physicians by creating a Workforce Commission to recommend strategies that will sustain interest in primary care careers among medical students.

“Equally important, this proposal would improve Americans’ access to health care coverage. By calling for shared responsibility among individuals, employers and the public sector, this legislation makes universal coverage possible. By requiring that insurance companies offer and renew coverage regardless of applicants’ age, health status, medical history or pre-existing conditions, this proposal helps ensure that coverage will be equitable. By setting parameters for health insurance premiums and establishing assistance for individuals and families with incomes up to four times the federal poverty level, the Affordable Health Choices Act helps ensure that coverage is affordable.

“We understand that the public plan option outlined in the bill is under discussion. Such an option must be carefully examined to ensure that we maintain a robust insurance industry while ensuring health coverage for all.

“With many of the provisions in the Affordable Health Choices Act, Congress has an opportunity to establish a high-quality, efficient health care system that ensures universal coverage, access to primary care in a patient-centered medical home and the quality of care that all Americans deserve. The AAFP applauds these efforts and looks forward to working with lawmakers to effect meaningful, sustainable health system reform that ensures Americans get high-quality, cost-effective health care.”

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Founded in 1947, the American Academy of Family Physicians represents 134,600 physicians and medical students nationwide, and it is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care.

Family physicians conduct approximately one in five of the total medical office visits in the United States per year – more than any other specialty. Family physicians provide comprehensive, evidence-based, and cost-effective care dedicated to improving the health of patients, families and communities. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing and personal patient-physician relationship where the family physician serves as the hub of each patient’s integrated care team. More Americans depend on family physicians than on any other medical specialty.

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