• American Rescue Plan Holds Big Wins for Primary Care

    Sweeping Stimulus Package Reflects Key Academy Priorities

    March 16, 2021, 2:59 p.m. News Staff — The landmark American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law March 11, makes significant investments in public health, the medical workforce and health care coverage, and answers a number of the Academy’s key advocacy messages.

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    “Family physicians are relieved that this legislation will make health care coverage more affordable for many of their patients, a longtime AAFP priority,” AAFP President Ada Stewart, M.D., of Columbia, S.C., said in a statement reacting to passage of the $1.9 trillion package.

    The ARPA “provides substantial investments in many AAFP priorities,” notes an Academy summary of the sweeping legislation.

    Bolstering the primary care workforce, the package includes $330 million to expand the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program (which the Academy has called crucial to the family physician pipeline), $7.6 billion for community health centers and $800 million for the National Health Service Corps.

    Among the other primary care wins cited in the AAFP’s summary, titled “American Rescue Plan: Key Provisions Affecting Family Physicians,” the legislation

    • provides incentives to states to extend Medicaid eligibility to women for 12 months postpartum, expanding coverage access while addressing maternal health disparities and mortality;
    • expands access to coverage with COBRA subsidies to help individuals retain employer-sponsored insurance after a job loss, as well as premium tax credits for two years to increase affordability of qualified health plans purchased through the health insurance marketplace;
    • provides 100% federal funding to states to cover the cost of Medicaid vaccine administration through one year after the end of the public health emergency, encouraging states to pay adequate rates for vaccine administration and thus increasing access to COVID vaccines for underserved populations;
    • allocates $7.5 billion for the CDC to prepare, promote, administer, monitor and track COVID-19 vaccines; $5.2 billion to HHS to support advanced research, development, manufacturing, production and purchasing of vaccines and therapeutics; and $1 billion for education and outreach activities to promote vaccine confidence; and
    • provides financial incentives for states that have not yet expanded Medicaid to do so, allowing increased access to health care, improving outcomes and decreasing racial disparities.

    The administration has characterized the package as the first of two large-scale steps toward U.S. pandemic recovery. The Academy’s statement called for continued attention to primary care in further efforts.

    “While this legislation paves the way to expand access to health care, Congress should do more to strengthen our primary care system, such as increasing Medicaid payments for primary care to ensure that physicians are able to meet the increased demand for services,” Stewart said.