AAFP Statement: AAFP Joins Cover the Uninsured Week Partners to Urge Policy-Makers to Improve Access to Health Care

Friday, March 13, 2009

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

One of the least visible but most concerning effects of an economic downturn is the loss of access to health care. With a record number of unemployed Americans, we can expect to see the number of uninsured Americans increase dramatically.

In January, the Kaiser Family Foundation report, ‘Rising Unemployment, Medicaid and the Uninsured,’ estimated that the number of Americans without health insurance would jump from 45 million to 47.6 million with a 7 percent unemployment rate. In January, the national unemployment rate was 7.6 percent. By February it had reached 8.1 percent. We know the number of uninsured Americans is increasing by the week.

The recently passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will help states continue Medicaid coverage to eligible Americans, and it will help newly unemployed workers preserve coverage by subsidizing their insurance coverage through COBRA. But these are short-term band-aids and don’t reach all those who have no health insurance. We need health system reform that works with both public and private entities to ensure that all Americans have access to health care.

That reality makes the 2009 Cover the Uninsured Week March 22-28 that much more important. By focusing on the issues of unemployment and the proposed solutions being debated across the nation, we can come to an agreement on how to best ensure financial access to health care for everyone, even in hard economic times.

For that reason, the American Academy of Family Physicians and our 94,600 members join the other 226 partners of Cover the Uninsured Week in supporting the efforts to raise awareness of the uninsured and to urge our policy-makers to make the uninsured a top priority in their health care reform proposals. Ensuring that all Americans have access to a personal physician in a patient-centered medical home is an important step in solving the challenges our nation faces in reforming our health care system.

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Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 136,700 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the largest 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 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(familydoctor.org).