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AAFP: State of Union Speech Highlighted Need to Continue Working to Solve Patient Access to Care

By Lori Heim, MD

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The American Academy of Family Physicians applauds President Obama for continuing to shine a spotlight on the need for health care reform. It is, indeed, a problem that will not go away. The realities that started the debate about health care remain.

For more than 20 years, the American Academy of Family Physicians has supported health care coverage for everyone. As the President noted, we must provide health care coverage to people who cannot afford it or who have been turned away due to pre-existing conditions. We also must address the factors that drive up costs and lower quality: the fragmentation of care, the duplication of tests and services, and the disregard for chronic disease management, prevention and wellness care in favor of medical intervention. And we must build up the primary care physician workforce to meet the needs of Americans.

We as a nation can solve these problems; we as a nation must solve these problems.

No American should delay or forego needed care because of cost. We must provide health care rather than focusing only on sick care. We must constrain total spending by helping patients avoid preventable illness, efficiently managing the care of people who have chronic illness and improving the quality of that care.

We can make important strides in that direction by implementing advances such as the patient-centered medical home, in which a qualified physician’s practice provides comprehensive care and preventive services, and coordinates health services when illness does develop. We can signal our support for such a system by improving payment for the medical expertise of primary care physicians and supporting medical education programs that pave the way for medical students to become primary care physicians.

The American Academy of Family Physicians will continue to work for constructive health insurance reform for all Americans; for changes in health care delivery that ensures high quality, affordable care for our patients; and physician payment and medical education reform that will rebuild our primary care physician workforce. These three goals are key to building a health care system that meets the needs of the American people. The health of our patients and the health of the nation depend on meeting them.

Lori Heim, MD, is President of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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