AAFP Presses Congress to Protect Primary Care Program Funding

September 21, 2016 08:42 am News Staff

As members of Congress prepare federal appropriations for 2017, the AAFP is seeking to ensure that funding is not cut for programs tied to primary care and public health initiatives.

In a Sept. 12 letter(2 page PDF) addressed to leaders of both parties in the House and Senate, AAFP Board Chair Robert Wergin, M.D., of Milford, Neb., urged legislators to pass a short-term continuing resolution free of "controversial" measures to keep the government funded beyond the end of the federal government's fiscal year on Sept. 30. But at the same time, he said, it is important that they fund the fight against the Zika virus.

"While a clean (spending bill) will allow sufficient time to finalize the legislation needed to support the many federal programs that are important to family physicians and our patients, we also urgently recommend that you work to enact Zika funding this month," Wergin wrote.

In the letter, he outlined programs that should receive continued funding in the upcoming 2017 budget, including the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The agency researches methods that enable physicians and medical centers to improve the quality of patient care.

"AHRQ is the sole federal agency charged with producing research to support clinical decision-making, reduce costs, advance patient safety, decrease medical errors, and improve health care quality and access," Wergin wrote.

Citing the continued emphasis on combating opioid abuse, Wergin pressed legislators to continue funding expansion of prescription drug monitoring programs in all states. Congress took a "meaningful first step" by passing the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, he wrote, and now lawmakers need to finance the programs the legislation outlines, including promoting greater access to naloxone.

Wergin noted that the AAFP supported passage of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), and he expressed concern that potential budget cuts to CMS program management could inhibit the smooth transition to a new value-based payment system that MACRA is meant to facilitate.

"Without careful implementation of MACRA, physicians practicing in communities across the country could face overly complex and burdensome administrative requirements that will hinder patient care," Wergin wrote. "The AAFP is deeply concerned about the proposed cuts to program management and strongly urges Congress to work with CMS and the next administration to ensure the successful implementation of MACRA."

Wergin also thanked the House and Senate for approving funding of $39 million in grants managed by the Health Resources and Services Administration to support family medicine education, training and faculty development through the Primary Care Training and Enhancement program. The action maintained the amount budgeted for 2016.

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AAFP Urges More Federal Funding for Key Primary Care Programs