AAFP Statement: Preserving Patient Access to Primary Care Act

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Statement attributable to:
James King, M.D.
Board Chair
American Academy of Family Physicians

The American Academy of Family Physicians applauds Congresswoman Schwartz for introducing the Preserving Patient Access to Primary Care Act.

This bill takes a number of profound and important steps toward the goal of comprehensive health care reform. It acknowledges the importance of primary care in improving quality and controlling costs, and it recognizes the current and worsening shortage of primary care physicians.

Its proposed solutions: shore up primary care medical education; encourage our best and brightest students to choose family medicine, general internal medicine and general pediatrics careers; and thereby ensure that Americans have a personal physician to meet their health care needs.

Specifically, the bill:

  • improves payment systems under Medicare to support, sustain, and enhance the practice of primary care;
  • directs Medicare to pay for specific care coordination services that have been shown to improve outcomes for patients with chronic illnesses;
  • requires that Medicare transition to a new payment methodology for qualified patient-centered medical homes by allowing qualified PCMH practices nationwide to receive monthly payment for care coordination to qualified beneficiaries;
  • provides scholarships for students who agree to serve as primary care physicians (after residency) at critical shortage health facilities;
  • provides for loan repayments and loan deferment for students who agree to serve as a primary care physicians (after residency) in critical shortage areas; and
  • eliminates barriers to increased training in ambulatory settings.

Finally, this bill takes an important first step toward regenerating the primary care foundation on which efficient, effective and high-quality health care systems are based. Combined with other reforms that increase Americans’ access to health care coverage, help implement the patient-centered medical home concept and empower patients to participate in their health care, this legislation works to ensure that Americans have an adequate number of primary care physicians..

AAFP calls on Congress to approve this legislation and pave the way for reforms that will help guarantee Americans can find a primary care doctor and have full access to the health care services they need. Congress With passage of this bill, Congress will contribute to meaningful change that will help us achieve real health care for all.

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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).