AAFP Statement: Budget Proposals Must Support Policies that Rebalance Health Care on Primary Care

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Statement Attributable to:
Roland Goertz, MD, MBA
American Academy of Family Physicians

“As Americans sort through the many budget proposals coming from Capitol Hill and the White House this week, we must remember that how we spend our money for health care is equally as — if not more — important than focusing only on what is spent.

“Arbitrarily cutting the portion of funds the federal government pays will only push the cost of care onto patients, states or other sectors of the economy. This is not savings, nor is it a true solution to identified problems.

“Over the decades, study after study has shown that patients get high quality care at less cost when their health care system is based on primary medical care. The American Academy of Family Physicians has consistently called for a health care system — and the fiscal policies that support it — that begins with primary medical care and access to that care for all Americans.

“If any budget proposal is to restrain the growth in health care spending successfully, it must support programs that build the family physician and primary care workforce, that pay for the quality and outcomes of medical care and that ensure all Americans have access to that care. Americans need care that prevents and mitigates the debilitating and costly results of chronic illnesses that 'go uncared for.' They need care that coordinates and manages care for chronic conditions that prevents complications, unnecessary hospitalizations and expensive interventions. They need the care provided by family physicians and other primary care colleagues.

“We know how to reach this goal. Models such as the primary care patient-centered medical home have been shown to improve patient outcomes, restrain costs and improve overall community health. They reduce unnecessary use of emergency rooms, fragmentation of care and duplication of services. They increase patient compliance with treatment plans. They improve patients’ productivity and quality of life.

“Budget proposals must fund programs that focus on making our current system more efficient, that improve the balance between primary care and non-primary care services, and that value the results of such a system. Such a model can expand patient access to care and enhance quality within the current level of overall spending, but it must rebalance our health care system on primary medical care and invest in and build the primary care physician workforce. We will work with Congress and the administration to ensure that the federal budget supports these goals.”

Editor's Note: To arrange an interview with Dr. Goertz, contact Leslie Champlin, 800-274-2237, Ext. 5224, or lchampli@aafp.org.

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Founded in 1947, the American Academy of Family Physicians represents 136,700 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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