Obama Renews Call for Health Care Reform During State of the Union Address

Health Care Problems Have Not Disappeared, Says AAFP President

January 28, 2010 03:15 pm James Arvantes

During his first State of the Union address(www.whitehouse.gov) on Jan. 27, President Obama said he would continue to work for passage of a health care reform bill, reviving hopes that Congress may be able to pass comprehensive reform legislation this year.

President Obama calls on federal lawmakers to finish the job of passing health care reform legislation during his State of the Union address on Jan. 27.

"I am encouraged that the president is still obviously concerned about health care and that he called once again for congressional action," AAFP President Lori Heim, M.D., of Vass, N.C., told AAFP News Now. "In his speech, the president made the same points we have been making, and that is, the problems that started the debate about health care have not changed."

Obama urged Congress "not to walk away" from health care reform, saying "after nearly a century of trying, we are closer than ever to bringing more security to the lives of so many Americans."

Obama's speech primarily focused on the economy, but in making his pitch for health care reform, he said reform of the nation's health care system is inextricably linked to the nation's economic well-being. And he reiterated many of the points about health care reform long championed by the AAFP.

President Obama delivers his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol.

"The approach we have taken would protect every American from the worst practices of the insurance industry," Obama said. "It would give small businesses and uninsured Americans a chance to choose an affordable health care plan in a competitive market. It would require every insurance plan to cover preventive care."

In a prepared statement from the AAFP, Heim pointed out that the AAFP has supported health care coverage for everyone for more than 20 years.

"We must provide health care coverage to people who cannot afford it or who have been turned away due to pre-existing conditions," she said. "We must end the fragmentation of care; the duplication of tests and services; and the disregard for chronic disease management, prevention and wellness care in favor of medical intervention."

The AAFP will continue to work for constructive health insurance reform for all Americans while advocating for changes in health care delivery to ensure high-quality, affordable care, said Heim.

In that vein, the AAFP, along with the American College of Physicians and the American Osteopathic Association, sent a letter(1 page PDF) earlier this week to key congressional leaders and the White House urging Congress to enact legislation that provides Americans with greater access to affordable health insurance coverage.

The three organizations, which represent a total of 300,000 physicians and medical students, also asked Congress to implement physician workforce and payment reforms to help ensure a sufficient supply of primary care physicians and to accelerate funding for innovative models of care, such as the patient-centered medical home.

The organizations called for other reforms, as well, including alternatives to the current medical liability tort system and a permanent end to the cycle of Medicare physician payment cuts created by the sustainable growth rate formula. Unless Congress intervenes, physicians face a 21.2 percent cut in the Medicare payment rate on March 1.

Each of the reforms is essential to achieving a sustainable, affordable and high-quality health care system for all Americans, says the letter.