As deadlines draw near for Congress to fund major programs that affect primary care, it is important for family physicians to remind them how these vital initiatives improve public health.
FPs who visit with legislators in their district offices before those lawmakers return to Washington next month can rely on fact sheets the AAFP has tailored to each state that focus on issues of concern to family physicians. The fact sheets can be accessed from a page in the advocacy section of the Academy's website that offers resources for policymakers. Simply click on your state in the map shown on the page, and then download the health reform fact sheet for that state from the pop-up window that appears.
Congress must act soon to renew the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) program and National Health Service Corps (NHSC) funding, which are all set to expire on Sept. 30. Family physicians can also remind legislators that reviving a program to increase Medicaid payment levels to those of Medicare will expand access to primary care.
The AAFP supports a long-term extension of CHIP and Medicaid funding, reauthorization of funding for the NHSC, and legislation that provides continued funding for THCs.
Physicians who meet with members of Congress or their staff are encouraged to arrive armed with facts and a memorable story. The state fact sheets can help, and members are encouraged to leave these fact sheets with legislators or staff members at the end of their meetings.
The fact sheets point out that family physicians work to provide access and care for the most vulnerable patient populations, including children who are covered by CHIP because other insurance programs are unavailable or unaffordable. Eighty percent of family physicians provide care for adolescents, and 73 percent care for newborns and infants.
If Congress does not extend CHIP funding, Arizona, Minnesota, North Carolina and the District of Columbia will exhaust their federal funds for the program by December 2017, according to the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission. By March 2018, 27 more states will run out of funding.
"The AAFP urges Congress to enact a long-term funding extension of CHIP to keep both programs strong and foster stability to low-income children and families," the fact sheets say, adding specific details for each state.
For example, New Hampshire, which provides coverage to 110,843 children through CHIP and Medicaid, will run out of CHIP funding by April 2018 if Congress does not reauthorize the program. As of 2015, 7,000 children in the state were uninsured.
The New Hampshire fact sheet also notes that the state has one family medicine residency program and 16 medically underserved areas and says that the NHSC supports 12 full-time clinicians in the state.
To drive home the importance of renewing the Medicare/Medicaid parity program, which expired in 2014, physicians can refer to the fact sheet to tell legislators that access to care among family physicians who accept Medicaid increased 7.7 percent when Medicaid payment was increased to match that of Medicare.
In addition to sharing information from the state fact sheets, the AAFP makes it easy for family physicians to contact their legislators about supporting NHSC funding and a bill to reauthorize the THCGME program through its Speak Out campaigns.
Related AAFP News Coverage
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Congress Must Fund CHIP for Future, Say AAFP, Others