OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

Family Doctors: All Americans Need Access to Affordable, Quality Care

Since Election Day, health care analysts have tried to forecast the fate of our health care system. Much remains uncertain, but what is undisputed is the goal that all Americans must be able to obtain affordable, high-quality and efficient health care. This must be at the center of any national health care strategy. That’s why America’s family doctors are starting this new year by encouraging the Trump administration and the 115th Congress to focus on this essential priority.

The American Academy of Family Physicians has long supported and advocated for meaningful patient-centered health care for all, an underlying tenet of many health care reform proposals, including the 2010 Affordable Care Act. We recognize that our current health care system is not perfect and new approaches can certainly improve the law. However, the nearly 200 million Americans who currently have health care coverage through the individual, small group and employer-based markets — as well as Medicaid — should not have their coverage and insurance protections jerked out from underneath them.

Within any changes, the overarching policy must ensure everyone has access to health care. Because America’s family doctors see more than half a million patients a day, we know what policies and programs ensure access to consistent, comprehensive and preventive care, particularly for low-income individuals and families. Financial barriers to care have crumbled as a result of Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicare. Medicaid and CHIP currently enroll nearly 73 million children and low-income Americans. Medicare preserves access to care for nearly 56 million elderly and disabled people. Equally important, patients who have privately purchased health insurance — particularly those with high-deductible plans — must not have to overcome financial obstacles to receive care.

Patient-centered care is at the heart of health care reform, which is why we must have a payment system that rewards the value of care over the volume of services provided. Our nation’s policy must build on the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act — or MACRA — to ensure family physicians in all practice settings can continue to practice patient-centered care.

Our lawmakers also must commit to building a physician workforce that can meet the growing demand for primary care. They must support efforts to maintain a steady pipeline of primary care physicians through graduate medical education reforms and extension of the community-based Teaching Health Center program that attracts students to family medicine.

Health care is a personal matter, which is why primary care is the foundation of our health care system. Time and time again, primary care physicians have been counted on to provide care to millions of Americans from all parts of the country — for they have proven their expertise to improve health outcomes while lowering costs.

It is imperative that we have national health policies that ensure all Americans can sustain a continuous relationship with their primary care physicians. The only way we can do this is with legislation and regulations that ensure all Americans, regardless of health or financial status, can get needed health care in a timely, efficient, affordable and personalized manner. America’s family doctors pledge our support in helping to achieve this vision. 

 

John Meigs Jr., MD, is president of the American Academy of Family Physicians and a family physician in Centreville, Ala.

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