AAFP Statement: Don’t Eliminate Programs for Short-Term Gain at the Expense of Long-Term Health Cost Savings

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Statement attributable to:
Jeff Cain, MD
American Academy of Family Physicians

“Later today, the U.S. House of Representatives will consider legislation aimed at reducing the deficit through reductions in spending on federal programs. We applaud efforts to focus on reducing the nation’s economic challenges but have serious concerns about several of the proposals included in the legislation. Specifically, we are concerned with provisions that would eliminate programs and financing that are actually aimed at reducing escalating health care costs for individuals and the federal government, such as the Prevention and Wellness Fund and programs that would assist individuals in securing affordable health care coverage for themselves and their families.

“We recognize that spending on health care and health care related programs is a major area of concern for Congress, the White House, and the public. However, investments in the programs cut in this legislation would certainly result in long-term stabilization and savings in our nation’s overall health care spending. Cutting these programs would be penny wise, but pound foolish for our country.

“The AAFP and our members are committed to providing high-quality and efficient health care to our patients. Access to affordable health care coverage for all individuals is an essential step in reducing the overall costs of health care in our nation. Numerous studies have illustrated that people who have a continuous and comprehensive relationship with a primary care physician have better health outcomes at lower costs. It is our position that this legislation would hinder access to care for millions of Americans, especially children who depend on the Medicaid program, and would result in poorer health and higher overall costs for our country.

“Furthermore, we have long advocated for a health care system that places greater emphasis on the prevention of disease, maintenance of health, and wellness. This is why the AAFP strongly supports programs that provide incentives for preventive care and wellness as a means of transitioning from a “sick care system” to a “health care system.” While eliminating funding for such programs secures short-term financial gains, it perpetuates a health care system that must finance the prevention of disease versus the treatment of disease.

“It is our hope that the House of Representatives will consider the long-term consequences of these parts of the proposed legislation and change them before voting. Again, we agree that hard choices must be made to stabilize our nation’s economy. However, we urge Congress to balance short-term financial savings against long-term goals, especially for those programs associated with improved health.”

Editor's Note: To arrange an interview with Dr. Cain, 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 129,000 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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