AAFP Statement: Family Physicians Applaud U.S. House for Passage of Economic Recovery Legislation

Thursday, January 29, 2009

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

The American Academy of Family Physicians commends the U.S. House of Representatives’ for passing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, (H.R. 1), which helps preserve American’s access to health care during current economic stress and establishes a foundation on which to build an efficient, highly effective health care system for the future.

In passing this economic stimulus package, the House has preserved the fiscal stability of Medicaid at a time when millions of Americans are turning to this federal-state health care program for health care coverage. Not only does this legislation provide relief to strained state Medicaid budgets with a temporary increase in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage for Medicaid, but it also includes provisions that ensure that families hit hardest by the recession will have access to health care. And, by extending the Transition Medical Assistance program, this legislation allows Americans who have received welfare to re-enter the workforce without fear of losing access to health care.

Moreover, by calling for $600 million to support primary care professionals, this legislation effectively doubles support of Title VII, Section 747, which funds primary care physician training. In doing so, the U.S. House has set the stage for ensuring an adequate number of family physicians, general internists and general pediatricians for meeting Americans’ need for high quality, efficient health services. Research has proven that a primary care-based health care system increases quality, improves patient outcomes and holds down costs. By reinvesting in primary health care education and the National Health Service Corps, this legislation goes far in establishing just such a system.

In addition, this legislation increases support for the community health care centers that form a cornerstone of the health care safety net for millions of uninsured, underinsured and geographically underserved Americans.

By emphasizing prevention and wellness programs, this package will help reduce the number of costly health conditions that drain the nation’s coffers and diminish the quality of life for millions of Americans.

The legislation’s focus on health information technology promises to enhance the quality of health care, increase the efficiency of services and reduce medical errors. By requiring the government to develop standards for interoperability and privacy for health care information and by providing incentives to physicians to adopt electronic health records, this legislation takes an important step in resolving the obstacles to universal adoption of health information technology. Fully implemented, this technology promises to save $10 billion and generate additional savings through improved care coordination and quality of care, and reduced medical errors. A national health information technology infrastructure and universal implementation of this technology are integral to reining in spiraling health care costs.

Taken together, these provisions form a strong foundation on which to build a highly effective, accessible and affordable health care system that serves the needs of individual patients and the nation.

We call on the U.S. Senate to follow the example of the House of Representatives and move quickly to conclude its work on similar legislation.

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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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