By Ted Epperly, MD, Board Chair
American Academy of Family Physicians
The American Academy of Family Physicians is pleased that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has passed the Senate. This legislation sets the framework for comprehensive health care reform and begins to strengthen primary medical care, the foundation of the U.S. health care system.
We commend the Senate for its hard work on resolving the many challenges of reforming our dysfunctional health care system. We will continue to work with Congress to address the issues that concern America’s family physicians.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act brings millions of Americans closer to health care security and begins to rebuild the foundation of the U.S. health care system.
With 46.3 million uninsured Americans and another 25 million who have inadequate coverage, the possibility of a bankrupting illness has shadowed people of all ages and in virtually all income brackets for too long. This bill represents important progress toward removing that threat.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act contains provisions that will prevent private insurance companies from denying coverage to people due to pre-existing conditions or from dropping patients from coverage because they get sick. Just as important, companies won’t be able to set a cap on the benefits paid under an insurance plan. This bill will expand Americans’ access to preventive, primary care and – through national demonstration projects – help establish the validity of the patient centered medical home, a cornerstone for a meaningful, comprehensive health care system. It also will allow states to experiment with models of litigation reform such as alternative dispute resolution systems.
At the same time, this bill works to ensure that you’ll be able to see a doctor when you need one. It will begin to build up our nation’s primary care physician workforce by improving payment to primary care physicians. This will sustain physicians already caring for these Americans and encourage others to join their ranks.
This legislation works to sustain that effort through the creation of a national health care workforce commission, improvement of the primary care student loan program, increased funding for the National Health Service Corps’ scholarship and loan repayment programs, reauthorization of Section 747 of Title VII training in family medicine, and distribution of unused residency training positions to primary care.
Altogether, these will help rebuild the foundation on which a stronger primary care physician workforce can be restored. They will ease the cost of medical education for students wanting to become family physicians and strengthen the educational programs that encourage medical students to become family doctors.
As a result of provisions that improve payment for primary medical care, these new family physicians will see improved payment for their expertise and medical skills. I commend the Senate for recognizing the value of primary care by creating a 10 percent bonus for five years for physicians whose health care services are more than 60 percent primary care.
This is an important step toward signaling to medical students that the nation is committed to investing in primary care. We appreciate this effort and we look forward to strengthening primary care physician compensation so we can truly encourage talented medical students to choose primary care specialties.
Health care costs are rising far beyond Americans’ ability to pay for coverage. Thousands of Americans are losing health care coverage each day. Up to half of all personal bankruptcies stem from the cost of medical bills. We must move forward with health care reform that provides security for patients, an adequate physician workforce to meet their needs and a delivery system that enables physicians to provide high quality health care.