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ACP Calls for Expansion of Health Insurance, Cut in Red Tape, More Technology Use and Improved Access to Primary Care Physicians

'State of Nation's Health Care Report' Calls for Comprehensive Approach

Washington, DC - (January 15, 2004) In its annual "Report on the State of the Nation's Health Care," the American College of Physicians (ACP) is proposing a bold new federal health policy framework to improve health care through better health insurance coverage, less red tape, improved use of health information technology, and policies to assure adequate access to primary care physicians.

The proposed framework calls on Congress and President Bush to:

  • Agree to enact legislation consistent with an initial goal of assuring that all Americans with incomes up to 150% of the federal poverty level have access to affordable coverage no later than January 1, 2007.
  • Institute reforms, in conjunction with private insurers, to drastically reduce the time that physicians now spend on completing paperwork for third party payers, with the goal of reducing the average amount of time that physicians spend on paperwork in half by 2007.
  • Provide the resources and support needed to encourage the transition from paper-based health care systems to affordable patient- and physician-friendly computer-based systems.
  • Develop and implement policies to address the impending shortage in the numbers of physicians practicing in the primary care specialties of internal medicine, family practice, OB/GYN and pediatrics.

"Improvements have been made in some parts of the health care system," said ACP President Munsey Wheby, MD, FACP. "Progress has been made in improving Medicare benefits for prescription drugs and preventive services, easing some red tape, and temporarily stabilizing Medicare physician reimbursement."

Dr. Wheby expressed concern, however, over areas where the nation's health care has declined:

  • More Americans lack health insurance coverage.
  • Out-of-pocket expenses for patients are increasing.
  • Millions of working Americans have lost the safety net offered by Medicaid and the S-CHIP program.
  • Medical liability insurance costs continue to escalate.
  • Unnecessary paperwork still wastes physicians' time and resources.
  • Fewer physicians are entering internal medicine and other primary care specialties. Increasing numbers of aging patients will require such physicians to manage care for their chronic conditions.

"We can no longer deal in piecemeal solutions," said Dr. Wheby. "Congress and the President need to embrace a comprehensive approach that treats the inter-related problems we've identified."

ACP's complete "State of the Nation's Health Care" report can be found online.

The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization and the second-largest physician group in the United States. ACP members include more than 115,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internists specialize in the prevention, detection and treatment of illnesses in adults.

Jack Pope, (202) 261-4556, jpope@acponline.org

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