Presidential Election Prompts Renewed AAFP Calls for Medicare Physician Payment Reforms, More Health Care Access

November 07, 2012 11:45 am James Arvantes

The AAFP has acknowledged the presidential election results by saying that it looks forward to working with President Obama and the new Congress "to ensure that everyone in this country can get the right health care at the right time from the right professional."

"That means continuing to work for access to both health care coverage and to the primary care physicians who should be the front door to our health care system," said AAFP President Jeff Cain, M.D., of Denver, in a prepared statement. "We call on the president and the next Congress to work together to ensure that all Americans have access to health care."

Cain also called on the president and the next Congress to "implement a permanent fix to the flawed Medicare physician payment formula that rewards volume over quality and that discourages growth of primary care."

"We call on the president and Congress to support medical education policies that fill the primary care physician pipeline and enable Americans to have a personal physician who provides comprehensive, whole-person care," said Cain. "And we call on the president and the next Congress to pass legislation that provides meaningful medical liability reform that would allow physicians the ability to afford to continue to provide care for all Americans."

Cain stressed that health care remains an important topic for Congress and the president to address. "We hope they both will heed their constituents' concerns and work together to improve the quality of health care, build the primary care physician workforce and enable patients to have a personal physician who can provide comprehensive, coordinated care," said Cain.

The 2012 presidential and congressional elections did little to change the national political landscape -- Democrats maintain control of the White House and the Senate while Republicans keep their majority in the House. This means the Obama administration will continue to push ahead with implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, according to Kevin Burke, director of the AAFP's Division of Government Relations.

The Affordable Care Act is expected to bring 30 million more people into the health care system within the next few years, putting greater pressures on the nation's primary care infrastructure and intensifying calls for the recruitment and retention of more primary care physicians, said Burke during a talk at the AAFP State Legislative Conference in Memphis, Tenn., Nov. 2-3.

"There is a growing sense that we need to figure out how to bolster primary care physicians, especially as more people get health insurance," Burke said

The incoming Congress likely will have "a strong emphasis on cost savings and fiscal discipline," said Burke. And that could present an opportunity to reform Medicare physician payment. However, Congress also could approach payment reform simply as an opportunity to reduce costs.

Health care will be addressed within the context of economic pressures on the federal government, making it incumbent on the AAFP to be vigilant about how entitlement reforms and tax measures affect the delivery of primary care, Burke said. "It will be hard to argue for increases in primary care without making the argument that (primary care) is an efficient way of addressing the federal deficit," he added.