AAFP Urges Members to Phone Congressional Representatives as Deadline for Health Care Reform Nears

March 16, 2010 04:45 pm News Staff

As part of a final push to enact health care reform legislation, AAFP President Lori Heim, M.D., of Vass, N.C. has issued a Speak Out alert to AAFP members asking them to phone their congressional representative to rally support for the health care reform bill pending in the House of Representatives.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, H.R. 3590, would strengthen the nation's primary care infrastructure and end many of the worst practices by the nation's health insurance industry, according to the alert, but it needs 216 votes to pass in the House.

"If we are going to change primary care and improve the conditions for family medicine, we need health care reform," said Heim in an interview with AAFP News Now. "This bill recognizes the value of primary care. It does not go far enough (in terms of primary care), but it is a start."

AAFP Leaders Vote to Continue Reform Efforts

The AAFP Executive Committee has voted to continue the Academy's efforts to urge Congress and the Obama administration to move forward with the current health care reform legislation.

The AAFP will advocate that the House pass the Senate bill and also will support "reconciliation" legislation, according to AAFP EVP Doug Henley, M.D.

"(The AAFP) continues to believe that such legislation is better than the status quo," said Henley. He added that it also is better for patients because it would expand coverage and achieve reform in the insurance market.

In calling for their support, Heim noted that family physicians, "need to be seen as leaders in this field so that our voice continues to be heard."

The Speak Out alert to AAFP members is the second one this week. An alert went out earlier in the week asking members in 79 congressional districts to contact their representatives. Those districts were identified by the AAFP as having representatives who still were undecided on the health care reform bill, according to Erica Fischer, the AAFP's grassroots advocacy specialist.

The House could vote as early as Thursday on health care reform legislation. The short deadline is prompting the AAFP to ask members to call their representatives rather than writing them. "This is a tough vote, and Congress needs to know family physicians support this legislation," says the Speak Out alert.

If this bill passes in the House, the Senate will take up a package of "fixes" to the bill. This "reconciliation" process would require a 51-vote majority instead of a filibuster-proof 60 votes for final passage. Before that step can be reached, however, the bill needs to secure 216 votes in the House.

The Senate bill now under consideration in the House would increase the number of Americans who could access insurance and take steps to create a health care system based more on primary care, according to the AAFP alert. The legislation also would provide a 10 percent bonus in Medicare payments for the next five years for primary care services and would prohibit insurance companies from dropping patients when they get sick or denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions.