Obama Budget Makes Key Investments in Primary Care, Says AAFP President

February 03, 2010 04:50 pm James Arvantes Washington –

The Obama administration's fiscal year 2011 budget would provide funding increases for a number of primary care-related programs and, thus, would enable the U.S. health care system to take steps toward offering a high-quality, efficient and accessible health care system, according to AAFP President Lori Heim, M.D., of Vass, N.C.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius ponders a question from the press corps during an HHS press conference on the administration's fiscal year 2011 budget proposal.

"I think we need to look at this budget in the context of President Obama's comments about trying to curb spending," said Heim in an interview with AAFP News Now. "We knew this was going to be a rather austere budget cycle. Given that, it is very encouraging that there has been a continued commitment to primary care," in the proposed budget.

She described the budget as an "investment in primary care and the future that will reap multiple benefits," if it is carried out.

The administration's budget, which was released on Feb. 1, would increase funding for the National Health Service Corps, or NHSC, by $27 million in FY 2011 and would provide about $2.4 billion for community health centers, or CHCs, during the next fiscal year. The NHSC and CHCs are two key primary care-related programs.

The money for CHCs in the president's budget would help fund the nation's 7,500 health center sites, while also extending support for 127 CHCs created as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Another $25 million is set aside for 125 CHCs to conduct outreach and to strengthen behavioral health services, according to Mary Wakefield, Ph.D., R.N., administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration, during a Feb. 1 HHS press conference announcing the release of the budget.

The proposed budget also would increase funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, or AHRQ, by $214 million compared with that for the current fiscal year. The increase for AHRQ primarily is for comparative effectiveness research, but it also includes $32 million for health information technology research and another $16 million for prevention and care management research and dissemination activities.

The administration's budget also would provide $81.3 billion for HHS, which includes $4 billion for the FDA, a $746 million increase, and $32.2 billion for NIH, a $1 billion increase.

In addition, the proposed budget would increase the CDC's chronic disease and health promotion activities by $6 million to $937 million in FY 11.

Of particular interest to the AAFP, the proposed budget would maintain level funding for health professions training programs.

Heim observed that even in an austere budget environment, the administration has proposed level funding for health professions grants provided under the Public Health Service Act. The AAFP "will work with Congress to raise that support to ensure adequate appropriation for primary medical care education," she said in a prepared statement.