AAFP Urges More Federal Funding for Key Primary Care Programs

April 25, 2016 01:40 pm News Staff

With the 2017 budget season approaching, the AAFP recently submitted testimony to the House and Senate urging legislators to support federal programs that are essential to primary care.

[U.S. Capitol]

The testimony,(5 page PDF) which was submitted to the Appropriations Committee in each chamber, warns legislators that the current shortage of primary care physicians threatens to grow even greater as the nation's population ages. The AAFP cited studies that found more than two-thirds of community health centers are recruiting for at least one family physician,(www.nachc.com) and that predict an additional 33,000 primary care physicians will be needed by 2035.(www.annfammed.org)

One way to support the training of family physicians, the Academy told legislators, is through the Primary Care Training and Enhancement program. The AAFP asked Congress to increase the program's funding from $39 million to $59 million for 2017. Without additional money, the program cannot offer new grants for four more years.

"For decades, these grants to medical schools and residency programs have helped increase the number of physicians who select primary care specialties and who go on to work in underserved areas," the testimony states.

The AAFP also asked for an additional $70 million for the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) to bring its total funding to $380 million. By offering tuition reimbursement, the program has proven to be effective in recruiting medical students to serve in medically underserved areas and continue in primary care careers. The current amount of federal investment is insufficient to meet the need for more primary care physicians and health professionals.

"Not only does the NHSC program of placing physicians and medical professionals in health professional shortage areas meet the needs of patients in rural and medically underserved areas, it also provides scholarships as incentives for medical students to enter primary care and to provide health care to underserved Americans," the statement reads.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) produces research that supports clinical decision making, especially related to treatment of chronic care patients. As valuable as the agency's research is to primary care, it still recently has been threatened with elimination.

In its testimony, the AAFP asked for at least $364 million to support the agency's research. Caring for patients with multiple chronic conditions accounts for 51 percent of health expenditures and is expected to rise to 80 percent by 2020. However, the agency had to suspend research into this important area during 2015 because of a lack of funding.

"Without AHRQ research, too little is known about appropriate care for real patients in primary care practices. More attention and research need to be directed to patients with more than one mental or physical health condition," the testimony states.

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