450,000 Doctors Demand: ‘Heal Health Care Now’

Video featured at HealHealthCareNow.org; Letters sent to all U.S. Senators

Thursday, July 30, 2009


LEAWOOD, Kan. – America’s front-line family doctors want you to know what they think about the current dysfunctional health care system and the benefits that could be realized from a system built on primary care.

Today marks the launch of “Heal Health Care Now.” This Web-based initiative (HealHealthCareNow.org(www.HealHealthCareNow.org)) consists of several elements, including a provocative video of family doctors speaking in support of the health system reform legislation Congress is debating currently. The video culminates with a call to action encouraging viewers to let their legislators know they stand behind nearly half a million doctors to support reform. The Web site also provides a quick and easy tool that encourages viewers to contact their legislators directly.

Also today, organizations representing 450,000 doctors signed and delivered a joint letter indicating their support of health care reform to Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his colleagues in the U.S. Senate. The American Academy of Family Physicians along with the American College of Physicians, the American Osteopathic Association, the American Medical Student Association, Doctors for America and the National Physicians Alliance signed the letter which reads in part, “We are confident that the reforms being proposed will allow us to provide better quality care to our patients, while preserving patient choice of plan and doctor.”

Two national nonpartisan health care organizations — the AAFP and the Herndon Alliance — developed the online “Heal Health Care Now” initiative in a strategic effort to counter some of the most potent anti-reform arguments with the most trusted spokespersons — front-line family doctors. The AAFP represents more than 94,000 family physicians and medical students. The Herndon Alliance is a nationwide coalition of more than 200 minority, faith, labor, advocacy, business, and health-care provider organizations, including the American Nurses Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the AARP, the Mayo Clinic and Families USA.

Brave New Films produced and distributed the video in which health care providers discuss “real-world” and all-too-common examples of the barriers they encounter as they try to provide the best possible care to their patients.

In the current system, more than 14,000 American families lose their health insurance everyday and 56 million do not have access to a primary care physician. Fifty percent of bankruptcy filings are due in part to astronomical medical expenses.

This is the result of a catastrophically fragmented system that provides incentives for sick care instead of prevention. The system is in dire need of reform — reform to save lives, to save families and to save money for both patients and the American health care system.

“If the status quo persists without change, what we’ll see are several things: People will not have affordable health care. People will not have access to the health care system. They will live sicker; they will die younger,” said Ted Epperly, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians and a practicing physician in Boise, Idaho.

Many of the providers featured in the video express anger toward a system that limits the time they can spend with patients and rewards them for the quantity — not quality — of the care they provide.

“I spend 40 percent of my time away from my patients doing paperwork and getting prior authorizations,” said Jim King, MD, a family physician in Selmer, Tenn. “We need to start taking the barriers that are between me and my patients away.”

“Medicine now has…has been shifted and it’s really more about insurance companies and rules that aren’t fair. It’s no longer about the patient and the doctor,” said Lori Heim, MD, a family physician in Vass, N.C.

The doctors describe how health care reform will improve the care they can give to their patients: increasing quality, affordability and access of care; ensuring choice of doctor and health plan; and bringing insurance companies back in line with what is best for patients.

“The health care reform being considered by Congress will make the care doctors provide better for their patients,” Epperly said. “We’ll start to see the health of the nation improve. We’ll start to see the health of individuals and families improve in a very positive way.”

“I don’t see anywhere that we’re talking about limiting or rationing care. If anything, we’re trying to open it [the system] up so that people get the preventive health care they’re not getting now,” said Jeff Luther, MD, a family physician in Long Beach, Calif.

For more information, visit www.healhealthcarenow.org(www.healhealthcarenow.org).

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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.

To learn more about the AAFP and family medicine, visit www.aafp.org/media. Follow us on Twitter,(twitter.com) and like us on Facebook. For information about health care, health conditions and wellness, visit the AAFP’s award-winning consumer website, www.familydoctor.org(familydoctor.org).