AAFP Praises Bill that Prevents Medicaid Payment Cuts, Calls for Action on “Ensuring Access to Primary Care for Women & Children Act”

Monday, Nov. 24, 2014

Statement attributable to:
Robert Wergin, MD
American Academy of Family Physicians

“More than 62 million Americans, particularly women and children, rely on the U.S. House and Senate passing the ‘Ensuring Access to Primary Care for Women & Children Act,’ recently introduced in the Senate by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and now introduced by U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) in the House of Representatives.

“The AAFP welcomes this bill. Seven in 10 family physicians accept Medicaid patients, but their ability to expand the number of beneficiaries has been limited by grossly inadequate payment. This legislation maintains Medicaid payment for primary care services at least at Medicare rates and would enable primary care physicians to continue expanding the number of Medicaid patients they can accept. Further, to date it enabled family physicians to add employees and infrastructure needed to accommodate newly insured, vulnerable patients. Without this legislation, Medicaid payment will plunge to 2012 levels — as much as 63 percent lower in some states — and force practices to accept devastating financial losses or to decline additional Medicaid patients seeking care.

“The cut will take effect Dec. 31, and unless Congress acts to extend and fund this provision, Medicaid’s sudden return to disparate and inadequate payment for primary care services will again shut out people who have come to know and depend on their primary care physicians. Only by preventing these deep cuts to Medicaid can we ensure that these Americans continue to have uninterrupted medical care in the future.

“Millions of women and children depend on family physicians for their care. More than 64 percent of women who seek care go to a family physician for their health needs — higher than any other physician specialty, including OB/GYNs. Moreover, family physicians provide more than 85 percent of women’s non-pregnancy related care. Family physicians are equally important to children’s health. Nearly 70 percent of all family physicians see children in their practices and family physicians are named as the usual source of care for one-third of the child population. That rises dramatically among older youth. Nearly three out of four people age 18 to 24 see a family physician for their usual source of care.

“Decades of research have shown that patients who have health care coverage and a usual source of care, most often a primary care physician, have better outcomes than those who lack one or both. Maintaining Medicaid payment at Medicare levels helps enable primary care physicians to accept more Medicaid beneficiaries into their practices. In other words, it makes health insurance a tangible benefit for millions of Medicaid patients.

“The ‘Ensuring Access to Primary Care for Women & Children Act’ opens the way for low-income families to maintain good health, prevent unnecessary illness and/or avoid complications of existing conditions. It helps keep the promise made by Medicaid coverage that beneficiaries will indeed have access to the care they need. The AAFP applauds introduction of this bill by Rep. Castor and urges Congress to act quickly to pass it.”

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

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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).