AAFP Statement: Senate Finance Committee Health Reform Proposal a Move in the Right Direction

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Statement attributed to:
Ted Epperly, MD
American Academy of Family Physicians

“Meaningful health care reform will succeed when Americans have access to affordable care and the nation has a solid foundation of primary care physicians to whom Americans can turn for their first-contact care, preventive services and chronic health care needs.

“The America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009 works to provide both.

“It begins with provisions that waive copayments and deductibles for preventive care, making these services more affordable for all Americans. These provisions are vital to ensuring that Americans get the services they need to avoid illness and to identify a health condition early, when it is most effectively treated.

“It continues by working to rebuild our primary medical care foundation with provisions that enhance research into physician payment models that can improve quality and address high costs. It reinforces reform by improving incentives for providing primary care and becoming a primary care physician.

“The American Academy of Family Physicians appreciates provisions to establish a national innovation center that can quickly test health delivery models that improve quality at less cost. Already, the patient-centered medical home model of care has shown great promise in providing comprehensive, coordinated care for patients; improved satisfaction with the health care system; reduced costly fragmentation and duplication of services; and important savings for the system and the patient. Continued study of these models is vital to ensure that health care reform is done right.

“As part of ensuring high quality medical services, physicians must have knowledge about the most effective and appropriate clinical care. Ineffective health care services not only cost the patient additional money, but they also pose a potential risk of postponing effective care or introducing additional health risks. Comparative effectiveness research can provide that knowledge, and the AAFP commends the Senate Finance Committee for establishing funding for such studies.

“Finally, the America’s Healthy Future Act would sustain health reform progress by recognizing the value of primary care and compensating primary care physicians for their medical, clinical and diagnostic expertise. For decades, research has consistently demonstrated that health care systems based on primary medical care provide higher quality care at less cost than the U.S. system. In our own country, research has consistently shown the number of primary care physicians in a given area is associated with improved health outcomes, including those for cancer, heart disease, stroke and infant mortality; low birth weight; life expectancy; and self-rated health status. In fact, research showed that for every increase of one primary care physician, the average mortality rate fell by 5.3 percent, while areas with a higher number of subspecialists reported higher costs without improved outcomes.

“By providing a 10 percent bonus for primary care services over the next five years, this legislation begins to rebalance a system that has seen the number of subspecialists skyrocket and the compensation for primary medical care fall precipitously. This bonus is a down payment on the nation’s commitment to rebuilding the primary medical care foundation on which all high quality health care rests.

“Each of these provisions marks progress in meaningful health care reform. The AAFP looks forward to working with the Senate on these and additional features of health system reform — such as finding a permanent solution to the formula by which Medicare pays physicians and permitting additional medical liability reforms — as this legislation moves forward.”

Editor’s Note: To arrange an interview with Ted Epperly, MD, contact Leslie Champlin at 800-274-2237, Ext. 5224, or lchampli@aafp.org.

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Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 129,000 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the only 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(www.familydoctor.org).