Family Physicians Support House Health Reform Proposal

In Congressional Testimony, AAFP President Urges Comprehensive Change in Coverage, Physician Training, Delivery of Medical Care

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Leslie Champlin
Senior Public Relations Strategist
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237 Ext. 6252

WASHINGTON — The United States no longer can afford to dither at the edges of health system reform. The nation needs meaningful, comprehensive change that revitalizes primary medical care and thereby ensures everyone has access to high quality health care.

That was the message taken to the U.S. House Ways and Means and the Energy and Commerce committees by Ted Epperly, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, in testimony presented this week during hearings on health system reform.

“As the nation has learned through the years, simply paying for more of the same fragmented, uncoordinated, procedure-based health care will not make us healthier and certainly will not contain the accelerating costs of health care,” he told committee members. “Thus, we believe that making primary care the foundation of health care in this country is critical.”

Such reform must redesign the way primary medical care is provided to patients by establishing a patient-centered medical home model that enables every patient to have a personal physician, aligns financial incentives to support such a model, and implements policies that ensure the adequacy of the nation’s primary care workforce.

To that end, the AAFP supports the provisions in draft legislation currently being debated by the Ways and Means Committee. Among them:

  • a health insurance exchange where Americans can one-stop shop for a private or public health care plan, compare benefits and prices, and choose the option that best meets their own needs;
  • guaranteed availability and renewability of health coverage and the prohibition of preexisting condition exclusions and denials;
  • required coverage for individuals and provisions that allow individuals to maintain their current coverage, if desired;
  • elimination of the debt accumulated by Medicare’s sustainable growth rate;
  • a 5 percent bonus for primary care services and up to 10 percent bonus for those services provided in a health professions shortage areas;
  • inclusion of comparative effectiveness research;
  • graduate medical education policies that expand primary care training positions, emphasize community-based training, and provide a specific funding stream that gives incentives to increase the number of practicing primary care physicians;
  • a system in which all payers — not just Medicare and Medicaid — pay for physician training, especially primary care; and
  • provisions that create a Primary Care Student Loan program and that budget $215 million for Section 747 of Title VII in the Public Health Service Act.

“Now is time to reform the system,” said Epperly. “We urge Congress to invest in the health care system we want, not the one we have.”

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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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