• In The Trenches

    You Can Help Get Our Priorities Out of Legislative Limbo

    Oct. 6, 2023

    By Stephanie Quinn
    Senior vice president of external affairs and practice experience

    Circle it on your calendar: Nov. 17 is the new deadline for Congress to wrap up the appropriations process or kick the can down the road again with a continuing resolution. The latter option is what lawmakers chose Sept. 30 in the hours before funding would have run out for the federal government. That was plenty dramatic, and matters have not calmed down since then, as we all know.

    US Capitol

    Funding for several primary care initiatives the Academy strongly supports, including community health centers and the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Program, remains at stake over the next six weeks. So does momentum on legislation we have endorsed: bills that would help modernize Medicare physician payment, protect beneficiaries’ access to care and add badly needed oversight to health care consolidation, among other things.

    Before this most recent brush with a government shutdown (during which the Health Resources and Services Administration would have used fiscal 2023 carryover funding to keep CHCs open, a contingency it might still need), the AAFP was pressing hard to secure results on these matters. This 45-day reprieve buys Congress some time, but we’re not about to let up. Our advocacy is accelerating — and, as always, will gain still greater force when you add your voice to the fight and tell your legislators about your practices and patients.

    Yes, I am asking you once again to use the Academy’s Speak Out tool to make or renew a connection to your members of Congress. Lawmakers need to hear from family physicians that political limbo is no place for CHCs, THCGMEs, substance use disorder policies, maternal health programs and other vital health measures.

    Our collective advocacy is also needed right now to ensure that Congress does not impede next year’s planned implementation of the Medicare G2211 add-on code. As the AAFP has told members and worked to make clear to policymakers, G2211 would start to yield more accurate payment for the continuous, comprehensive, coordinated primary care that family physicians give their patients — for which Medicare has historically underpaid. Academy members, don’t circle your calendars for this item. Do this today: Click here to support G2211.

    I want to let you know, as well, how the AAFP is advocating for these and related concerns in publications we know everyone on Capitol Hill sees. In recent weeks, we’ve been visible

    • urging Congress in Healthcare Dive to support G2211;
    • reminding Axios, Politico and Modern Healthcare readers that the Medicare payment system needs repair;
    • answering Medicare payment questions in Healio;
    • teaming up with Families USA to publish a Baltimore Sun op-ed calling for permanent authorization of THCGME;
    • telling Medical Economics readers why greater investment in primary care is crucial; and
    • publishing (with our Group of Six partners) in Stat a call for strong action to counter the physician shortage (via programs I just mentioned, as well as student debt relief).

    That Stat piece, in particular, makes a compelling argument for primary care investment, a simple phrase that’s at the heart of all the advocacy I’ve outlined here. I believe it also underscores the importance of G2211.

    “The pressures of the last three and a half years have affected every corner of the health care landscape, but nowhere is the effect more evident than the country’s physician workforce,” we wrote. “Burnout, staffing shortages, financial challenges, administrative burden, and two U.S. Supreme Court decisions that stand to stifle diversity and representation in medicine have hamstrung physicians across specialties and settings — in rural and urban communities, in hospitals, clinics, and independent practices.

    “Policymakers can support and expand programs that have been proven to help address physician shortages and maldistribution in medically underserved and rural areas. This includes funding for the National Health Service Corps and Teaching Health Centers, as well as expanding Medicare Graduate Medical Education slots, which can target specific hospitals and programs in areas and specialties of need. Additionally, Congress must support policies like the Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Reauthorization Act, which allows foreign doctors studying in the U.S. to remain following their residency in exchange for practicing in medically underserved areas.”

    None of these steps by itself will make up for decades of underinvestment and demographic change. But each is demonstrably effective and workable. Get these things done, and we can really start building. 

    One More Thing

    Speaking of compensation and workload: If you have not already given 10 minutes to the AAFP’s important (and anonymous) Benchmark Survey, please participate today. You have until Nov. 10 to answer questions about your compensation and work experience.

    The answers you provide will help us stand up the first-ever career benchmark dashboard, allowing AAFP members to compare salary, benefits and work satisfaction. You’ll be able to filter data by state, gender and other factors to get the most accurate gauge of compensation and work environment. Find out more here

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    The opinions and views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the opinions and views of the American Academy of Family Physicians. This blog is not intended to provide medical, financial, or legal advice. All comments are moderated and will be removed if they violate our Terms of Use.