President's Message

Health Care for All Remains AAFP Priority After Election

November 15, 2016 02:26 pm John Meigs, M.D.

Last week was an interesting and surprising week.

[Large group of people seen from above gathered together in the shape of United States of America map]

This was what pundits call a "change election." We tend to have one in this country every eight to 12 years. Some of us are old enough to have lived through several such elections in our lifetime, others are not. Some of our members are ecstatic with the results of the presidential election, while others are appalled. Still others are waiting for the dust to settle so they can find out what it all really means.

Those of us who have seen this country go through these cycles before realize that the sun still comes up and the earth still rotates on its axis and revolves around the sun. Life goes on. There will be more of these change elections.

For some of our members, however -- and that includes a lot of our younger members, as well as female members, minority members, international members and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community -- the election results were unexpected and, quite frankly, frightening. Unfortunately, there has been a lot of hate speech associated with this recent campaign and election, and we have folks who are scared, wondering if they still belong and what the future holds for them.

Change is often difficult, but it is also constant. Another constant is the AAFP and our commitment to our members, our patients and our principles. The AAFP is an inclusive organization made up of individual family physicians of all backgrounds, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, religious affiliations, practice sizes and settings, and a host of other manifestations of our differences and our diversity. These differences and this diversity are sources of our strength and identity.

Family physicians are the physicians who care for our country. We treat all ages, all conditions and all people. We serve the indigent and underserved as well as the privileged and affluent and everyone else. Health care for all has been a mantra of this Academy for decades.

Within six hours of the election results being known, Hillary Clinton's concession and Donald Trump's declaration as the winner, we had delivered a letter to the president-elect and communicated with his staff.

In that letter, I outlined the priorities of the AAFP and offered to work with the new administration to improve our nation's health care system. The priorities in the letter included

  • securing health care for all with affordable health care insurance for all Americans;
  • ensuring access to health care for low-income individuals and families through safety-net programs;
  • promoting delivery system and payment reforms that place greater emphasis on the value of primary care and that appropriately value family medicine and primary care;
  • ensuring that patients do not face financial obstacles to securing primary and preventive care;
  • building the primary care workforce through a national workforce strategy, graduate medical education reform and expansion of teaching health centers;
  • promoting health equity; and
  • incorporating the social determinants of health into all health care delivery systems.

These are our priorities, and we will continue to carry this message to the new administration and the new Congress.

To all our members: Know that you have value, you are respected, you have a voice and a place in the AAFP. We need you to continue to do the good work of caring for patients -- indeed, for all Americans.

Regardless of who they are, where they come from, what color their skin is, how (or whether) they choose to worship, what their gender or sexual orientation may be, all patients deserve to be treated with respect, compassion, sensitivity and concern. They need a family physician -- one just like you.