AAFP Opposes Bill That Threatens Funding for Teaching Health Centers

Family Medicine Educators Agree With Academy's Stance

June 07, 2011 04:35 pm News Staff

The AAFP, in concert with several other organizations, is calling on Congress to oppose a House bill that would convert mandatory funding appropriations for teaching health centers into an authorization for annual appropriations.

[Stock photo of residents reviewing chart]

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act includes $230 million in mandatory funding for teaching health center programs that would train family physicians and other primary care physicians in community-based settings instead of hospital inpatient settings. This type of community-based training has been found to be an effective way to recruit and retain family physicians and other primary care physicians.

However, House Republicans have introduced a bill, H.R. 1216(www.govtrack.us), that would convert the mandatory funding for the teaching health centers into an authorization that would be subject to the annual appropriations process.

This would put the funding in jeopardy and would have a negative effect on training programs that already have been funded, according to a letter(2 page PDF) signed by AAFP President Roland Goertz, M.D., M.B.A, of Waco, Texas, and the presidents of the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine, the Association of Family Medicine Residency Directors, the North American Primary Care Research Group and the Association of Departments of Family Medicine.

The teaching health center program is "an innovative program that will help with the development of the primary care workforce as well as the distribution of physicians into underserved areas," says the letter. But, if the training programs in community-based settings are to be effective, there must be adequate and predictable resources.

"There are currently 11 (teaching health center) programs already funded under the mandatory appropriations," says the letter. "Repeal of this funding would abrogate the contract (the Health Resources and Services Administration) has made with the (residency programs) to provide funding for additional residents."

In addition, the groups note that converting the program to discretionary funding would deter other entities from expanding their residency training programs because they would not be able to rely on the funding when making business decisions necessary for expansion, such as hiring new faculty.