Internists Commend House and Senate for Including ‘Down Payment’ on Health Care Reform in Economic Stimulus Legislation
American College of Physicians Urges Conferees to Agree on Coverage, HIT, Comparative Effectiveness and Primary Care
Washington, February 11, 2009 – “The House of Representatives and the Senate are to be commended for including an important ‘down payment’ on health care reform in the economic stimulus bills,” Jeffrey P. Harris, MD, FACP, president of the American College of Physicians, said today.
“I urge conferees to come to an agreement that will provide adequate funding for critical health care issues – including coverage, health information technology, comparative effectiveness and primary care. These investments will provide short- and long-term benefits to the economy,” noted Dr. Harris.
Specifically, Dr. Harris urged House and Senate negotiators to:
Retain more than $20 billion in funding to help physicians and other clinicians acquire health information technology (HIT).for purposes such as quality reporting, prevention and coordination of care.
Dr. Harris urged the conferees to adopt language from the Senate bill to continue to build upon the work being done by public and private multi-stakeholder groups to develop standards and certify that electronic health records have essential capabilities and functions. His letter also expressed support for providing positive financial incentives for HIT adoption as included in both the House and Senate bills, but asked conferees to accept language in the House of Representatives bill to provide a longer timeframe and increased assistance to smaller physician practices before any penalties for non-compliance are imposed.
Provide more than $1 billion in funding for comparative effectiveness research as a first step to creating and funding an independent entity to conduct rigorous, evidence –based evaluations of the effectiveness of different medical treatments.
Retain the $600 million to fund training of primary care physicians under the National Health Services Corps and Title VII health professions programs that is included in the House bill.
“The U.S. needs more than 16,000 additional primary care physicians to meet the needs of currently underserved areas of the country, according to the Institute of Medicine,” noted Dr. Harris. “Many more will be needed as coverage is expanded to additional persons. Studies show that primary care is consistently associated with better outcomes and lower costs of care, but there is a growing shortage of primary care doctors. The Senate regrettably left funding for primary care out of its bill.”
Include funding to help low-income unemployed persons keep their COBRA or enroll in Medicaid. Dr. Harris expressed a preference for the higher levels of COBRA subsidies—65 percent in the House bill—over the 50 percent subsidy in the Senate bill. Dr. Harris also urged that the final agreement include the House’s proposal to provide additional funds to states to enroll low-income persons who temporarily lose their jobs in the state’s Medicaid program.
“Some say that Congress must choose between short-term measures to stimulate the economy and longer-term health care reforms. This is a false choice,” declared Dr. Harris. “We need to make sure that people who lose their jobs are able to obtain affordable coverage. We need to make the investments in health information technology, primary care, and effectiveness research that that will create jobs today – and make health care more affordable tomorrow.”
The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization and the second-largest physician group in the United States. ACP members include 126,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internists specialize in the prevention, detection and treatment of illness in adults.