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Friday Sep 23, 2011

A Powerful Voice

Family physicians in general and the AAFP in particular are often criticized for being “too nice” and not forceful enough in our advocacy in the public and private sectors. Areas of advocating for better payment and relief from administrative burden are the most commonly referenced.

From my perspective, our Academy is strong, consistent and far ranging in our advocacy. One of my goals in my year as AAFP president is to communicate regularly about those efforts. The appearance of not doing enough in this area is largely a matter of communication and perception. We are boldly at the table, advocating for the needs of family physicians and our patients. I will be bringing you that message in a timely manner through Facebook and Twitter. 

The foundation for our advocacy efforts is strong. There is a wealth of data in the peer reviewed literature about the value of family medicine. Having more family physicians in a population results in better health outcomes and lower health care costs. The Patient Centered Medical Home model has similar support in the literature.

There is also solid independent support for our position that family physicians are inadequately compensated for the care we provide. MedPAC advocates for improved payment for primary care services relative to other physician services. The 20th COGME report released in December 2010 recommends raising the average incomes of primary care physicians to at least 70 percent of the median income for all other physicians. This will reduce the income barrier to student interest in family medicine to help address the severe and worsening shortage of family physicians.

Occasionally, suggestions from AAFP members of more forceful action include comments like, “Tell Congress that if they don’t repeal the SGR, we will all withdraw from Medicare participation,”   or, “Refuse to contract with health plans unless they increase payment for primary care services.” These are decisions that must be made individually by each physician and practice but not collectively or by the AAFP. Any such broad or collective effort would violate anti-trust laws with severe consequences for our Academy.  

Who will take care of our patients if we are all wearing those orange jump suits?

We must advocate within the bounds of the law and our resources. Our greatest resource is our members. I encourage all members to engage in our advocacy efforts. Contact your members of Congress and share your stories. Let them know how our health care system is failing the residents in their district.

I urge you to contribute to FamMedPAC. Your contributions expand the access of AAFP leaders to decision makers in Congress to carry your message.

Collectively we are a powerful voice for family medicine.

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The opinions and views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the opinions and views of the American Academy of Family Physicians. This blog is not intended to provide medical, financial, or legal advice. All comments are moderated and will be removed if they violate our Terms of Use.