• Pipeline, Equity, Simplification Top AAFP Priorities for HRSA

    March 24, 2022, 11:55 a.m. News Staff — Building the family medicine workforce and improving health care in underserved communities depend in part on robust support from the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Academy said in a recent letter to the agency’s new administrator, Carole Johnson, M.A.

    Diverse group of doctors smiling

    “Investing in primary care is essential to HRSA’s mission and to achieving our shared goals,” the AAFP said in the March 18 letter signed by Board Chair Ada Stewart, M.D., of Columbia, S.C., which also invited Johnson to meet with the Academy.

    Those shared goals include delivering comprehensive primary care to every American while reinforcing physician training and loan repayment programs overseen by HRSA, the AAFP added. The letter emphasized the role played in each of these goals by community health centers, where millions of patients receive primary care and which, the Academy said, boost “equitable access to high-quality, culturally competent primary care for low-income patients, those living in rural areas and other underserved populations.”

    The Academy also reminded the agency that its grant programs have the power to reduce disparities in maternal health outcomes and improve behavioral health, citing in particular the Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant Program and the Pediatric Mental Health Care Access program. The latter trains primary care physicians on using telehealth to integrate behavioral health care. The letter called on HRSA to ensure that Maternity Care Health Professional Target Areas acknowledge family physicians’ role in providing maternity care services, particularly in rural areas. 

    Additionally, the letter urged the agency to

    • increase the primary care workforce and access to health care in underserved communities by bolstering support for the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program;
    • strengthen and expand the Community Health Center program;
    • address primary care workforce shortages through Title VII grants to support clinician training as well as curriculum and faculty development;
    • strengthen the family physician pipeline through continued funding for the National Health Service Corps, including its loan repayment and scholarship programs;
    • work with Congress, CMS and other agencies to ensure that coverage and payment policies promote continued access to telehealth services for CHC patients beyond the COVID-19 public health emergency;
    • support CHC participation in alternative payment models;
    • increase access to behavioral health services through grants and technical assistance for CHCs that provide integrated behavioral health services; and
    • ensure equitable financial support to primary care practices dealing with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic through the Provider Relief Fund while streamlining reporting requirements for fund recipients “so physicians can focus on patient care instead of administrative tasks.”

    HRSA this week announced the release of an additional $413 million in Provider Relief Fund payments, the fourth round of such disbursements (with some $5 billion still in reserve).