December 1, 2020, 12:32 pm News Staff -- Congratulations, Mr. President-elect — now let’s get to work improving U.S. health care, starting with five moves to strengthen its backbone, primary care.
That was the Academy’s message in a Nov. 20 letter to Joe Biden, the incoming 46th president of the United States, following weeks of electoral challenges that slowed the usual protocols surrounding a White House transition.
“We look forward to working closely with your new administration and the 117th Congress to ensure all Americans have access to high-quality health care,” said the letter, signed by Academy President Ada Stewart, M.D., of Columbia, S.C. “This transition in power comes in the midst of a global pandemic that is testing the strength and vitality of our nation’s health care system and the people it serves.”
COVID-19 cast its shadow on most of the five policy priorities the Academy outlined in its letter, starting with the first item on the list — one familiar to Biden, who helped shepherd the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law.
“The Affordable Care Act has formed a foundation for a health care system that provides meaningful coverage, including preventive-services benefits and protections for patients with pre-existing conditions,” said the Academy, noting that the pandemic had underscored the importance of every American having access to high-quality, affordable health care. “We are committed to building on what works (in the law) and redesigning what does not.”
Beyond that, the letter guided Biden’s transition team to four other areas of emphasis for the Academy and primary care.
“Primary care has never been more important than today and yet continues to face some of the greatest challenges to achieving viability in our current health care system,” the letter warned. “The United States will need 52,000 more primary care physicians by 2025 in order to prevent shortages in the primary care workforce. We continue to work for creating a robust primary care workforce that is best positioned to serve all communities, including our underserved and rural populations.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the gaps in our nation’s health care system and the health impacts of systemic racism in our society, which must be corrected to ensure we improve the health of all Americans,” the letter said. “We are working to develop strategies that promote health equity through identifying and incorporating social determinants of health in all health care delivery systems — with the goal of prioritizing preventive health and management of chronic conditions.”
“Through the expansion of delivery system and payment reforms, we can drive value for patients through continuous and comprehensive contact with the goal of improving patients’ health outcomes and the doctor-patient experience,” the Academy wrote. “To be successful, reforms need to re-emphasize the importance of primary care and prevention.”
Again citing the pandemic, the Academy concluded its points by noting the emergence this year of telehealth as a crucial tool for family physicians that patients also value.
“We believe the current regulatory framework must be modernized to support the thoughtful integration of telehealth as part of a coordinated health care ecosystem,” the letter said, echoing the Academy’s steady lobbying on the matter.