Family Medicine Key to Improving Quality, Reducing Costs

Federal Budget Proposals Must Invest in Primary Care, FP Workforce, Says AAFP President

April 14, 2011 04:00 pm News Staff

The AAFP is calling on federal lawmakers to enact budget proposals that make sound investments in the nation's primary care infrastructure, saying that this is the only sure way to improve health care quality while reducing health care costs.

"If any budget proposal is to restrain the growth in health care spending successfully, it must support programs that build the family physician and primary care workforce, that pay for the quality and outcomes of medical care and that ensure all Americans have access to that care," said AAFP President Roland Goertz, M.D., M.B.A., of Waco, Texas, in a prepared statement.

Goertz's statement comes as both the White House( and House Republicans( have put forth fiscal year 2012 budget proposals that aim to address the nation's long-term fiscal problems. Each proposal would effectively cut billions from the Medicare and Medicaid programs during the next several years, a prospect Goertz denounced in his statement.

"Arbitrarily cutting the portion of funds the federal government pays will only push the cost of care onto patients, states or other sectors of the economy," he said. "This is not savings, nor is it a true solution to identified problems."

According to Goertz, it's important to remember that how money is spent for health care is equally as important -- if not more important -- than focusing solely on what is spent.

"Over the decades, study after study has shown that patients get high-quality care at less cost when their health care system is based on primary medical care," said Goertz. For that reason, he noted, the AAFP has consistently called for a health care system -- and the fiscal policies to support it -- that has, at its core, primary care and access to that care for everyone.

"Budget proposals must fund programs that focus on making our current system more efficient, that improve the balance between primary care and nonprimary care services, and that value the results of such a system," Goertz said.

"Such a model can expand patient access to care and enhance quality within the current level of overall spending, but it must rebalance our health care system on primary medical care and invest in and build the primary care physician workforce."