By Lori Heim, MD
President, American Academy of Family Physicians
The House passage of the Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962) is an important step toward needed change in the health care system.
This legislation will provide health insurance coverage for 96 percent of Americans. It will provide peace of mind for millions of people who cannot get health insurance due to cost or pre-existing conditions. It will provide health security for millions more who fear loss of coverage if they get sick.
“Family physicians appreciate the bill’s provisions that would help re-establish primary medical care as the foundation of our health care system. Investment in primary care will yield not only better health for everyone, but also more efficiencies, less waste and less duplication.
By creating a pilot program that helps physicians provide patient-centered medical home services and eliminating out-of-pocket expenses for preventive services, the legislation will encourage Medicare beneficiaries to get the comprehensive, whole-person care that improves their health while helping control the cost of their care.
HR 3962 also begins rectifying the growing payment disparity between primary care and subspecialty care physicians. The bill provides a Medicare-wide, 5 percent bonus (10 percent in underserved areas) for physicians whose Medicare practice is more than 50 percent primary care services. This bonus sends a signal that the nation does, in fact, recognize and value the medical expertise and comprehensive care provided by family physicians and their primary care colleagues.
This recognition is vital to encouraging medical students to choose primary care as their specialty. Their career choices today will determine whether Americans have access to a personal physician who will be their first contact with the health care system, who will provide preventive care and who will coordinate services among all health care providers if illness should develop.
The Affordable Health Care for America Act promises to provide both health care coverage and access to a personal physician. Its provisions promise meaningful, comprehensive health care reform that will meet the needs of virtually every American.
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