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Tuesday Mar 27, 2012

AAFP Taking 'Watchful Waiting' Approach to Supreme Court's Consideration of Health Reform Law

For more than two decades, the AAFP has supported the idea of health care for all. Two years ago, the federal government took steps toward making that concept a reality when the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law.

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing the law, which is being challenged by more than half the states. That concept of health care for all -- in a country with approximately 45 million uninsured people -- is at the center of the debate.

  • On Monday, the justices heard arguments about whether a penalty consumers would pay if they fail to obtain health care insurance is actually a tax. If the court rules it is a tax, the Anti-Injunction Act dictates that no challenge to the law can be brought until after the tax is paid.
  • Today, justices heard arguments questioning whether Congress can require people to buy health insurance.
  • And on Wednesday, the discussion will turn to whether other provisions of the Affordable Care Act can stand if the coverage mandate does not.

We will be following these arguments closely. The Affordable Care Act is not perfect, and our own membership has been split on its merits. There is no question, however, that the law contains provisions that address key issues the Academy has been calling for:

  • Assure that all people in the United States have health care coverage and access in order to foster a healthy and productive society.
  • The patient-centered medical home (PCMH) should be the basis of the health care system, improving efficiency and quality and providing comprehensive primary care for children, youth, adults and the elderly.
  • Providing a PCMH for every American will require a robust family physician workforce. The United States already is facing a shortage of 45,000 primary care physicians by the end of this decade.
  • Payment for primary care services also must increase in order to sustain primary care practices, allow for investment in practice transformation, and narrow the income gap between primary care and subspecialty physicians that represents a barrier to medical students entering family medicine.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the Affordable Care Act in June. Regardless of the high court's ruling, however, the AAFP will continue to push forward on these critical issues.

Posted at 03:34PM Mar 27, 2012 by Glen Stream, M.D., M.B.I.

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