Ensuring Access to GME Is Focus of Message on Capitol Hill

AAFP Leaders Meet With Congressional Staff to Highlight Key Issues and Concerns

March 12, 2012 05:05 pm James Arvantes

AAFP leaders took time out during their Board of Directors meeting last week to deliver a strong message to Capitol Hill about the importance of family medicine and the need to support programs and legislation that strengthen the primary care infrastructure.

AAFP President Glen Stream, M.D., M.B.I. (left) meets with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., March 7 about the critical need to boost GME funding for primary care training and other issues. AAFP Director Daniel Spogen, M.D., also met with the senator.

During a series of visits March 7, including a meeting between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; AAFP President Glen Stream, M.D., M.B.I., of Spokane, Wash.; and AAFP Board member Daniel Spogen, M.D., of Reno, Nev., the focus was on graduate medical education (GME) funding and Medicare payment issues.

During their meeting with Reid, Stream and Spogen asked him to support, H.R. 3667, a bill that would establish a pilot project to test primary care training programs in nonhospital settings. The bill, known as the Primary Care Workforce Access Improvement Act, has bipartisan support in the House, but has not been introduced yet in the Senate.

Stream and Spogen also talked about the importance of adequately funding Title VII of the Public Health Service Act. Section 747 of Title VII is the only federal program that provides funds specifically to academic departments and programs to increase the number of primary care health professionals.

"Sen. Reid was very supportive of Title VII and the GME bill," said Stream. "He understands the need to train more family physicians."

In addition, the two Board members addressed Medicare payment issues, reiterating the Academy's support for repeal of the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula. "Sen. Reid is as frustrated as we are that Congress has been unable to find a permanent solution to the SGR," said Stream.

Other AAFP Board members fanned out across Capitol Hill, as well, meeting with their respective representatives, senators or legislative staff, depending on who was available.

For example, Stream and AAFP President-elect Jeffrey Cain, M.D., of Denver, visited the office of Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. Bennet's office is very interested in learning more about GME modernization and ensuring that "America has an adequate primary care workforce," said Cain.

Meanwhile, AAFP Board Chair Roland Goertz, M.D., M.B.A., and EVP Douglas Henley, M.D., met with a special assistant for the White House Office of Health Reform to express concerns about a provision in the Obama administration's 2013 fiscal year budget that calls for a 10 percent reduction in direct GME payments. "We made the case for protecting primary care training programs in relation to any of those reductions because of the need for primary care physicians going forward," Goertz said.