Healthcare must remain a top priority for presidential candidates

The American Academy of Family Physicians is pleased that both presidential candidates point to healthcare as a major issue for the American people. Wednesday's debate focused attention on a health care system that — without reform — continues to be bogged down in fragmented, duplicative, and often unnecessary services that hinder access to quality care, and impose unnecessary costs on both individual patients and the nation. We welcomed the discussion about reforms that encourage coordination of care, ensure preventive services for Americans and payment for the value of care rather than the number of procedures provided. The candidates’ comments point to progress in our nation’s efforts to improve access to, and quality of, healthcare for all Americans.

As advocates for our patients, family physicians and the AAFP have advocated for healthcare coverage for all for more than 20 years. Only by ensuring healthcare coverage for everyone can we improve Americans’ ability to get the primary medical care that addresses short-term illnesses and that provides care that prevents disease or complications from chronic conditions.

Moreover, the AAFP has long supported health delivery reforms that build on the patient-centered medical home, in which patients have a long-term relationship with their primary care physician, and all members of the healthcare team work together on the patient’s behalf. By providing and paying for comprehensive, coordinated services — a concept both candidates mentioned during the debate — we can improve the health of our patients, avoid unnecessary medical interventions, ensure seamless care when it is needed and help restrain the cost of healthcare.

In order to make these reforms possible and to meet projected demand, our Medicare physician payment system must end the annual threat of devastating cuts to physician payment. We’re disappointed that neither candidate addressed the flawed sustainable growth rate formula. This failed formula jeopardizes elderly and disabled Americans’ access to needed healthcare and is unsound fiscal policy for the Medicare program. Only by stabilizing Medicare physician payment — including a higher payment rate for primary medical care and by paying for quality of care — can we build a healthcare system that serves both the individual and the nation.

Regardless of the election outcome, healthcare reform will continue. The AAFP calls for reforms that ensure Americans’ access to healthcare by building the primary care physician workforce, laying a path that enables all Americans to have healthcare coverage, and improves the quality and lowers the cost of healthcare services.

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