AAFP: Congress must provide financial support for primary care practices during COVID-19 crisis

Family physicians call for five policies to help primary care practices weather the crisis.

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) says the federal government must do it all it can to support primary care physicians during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, including providing financial support to keep small practices afloat.

“There is an urgency associated with the financing and support for our primary care system that must be addressed immediately,” said AAFP board chairman John Cullen, MD, in a letter to House and Senate leadership sent Friday afternoon.

In the letter, Cullen explains that primary care physicians play an essential role in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, "despite how grossly underfunded our national primary care infrastructure is at the present time."

"The  AAFP calls on Congress, as part of its legislative response to COVID-19, to enact five priority policies to help financially stabilize the primary care delivery system, grow the primary care physicians workforce and expand access to primary care for all Americans," the letter reads.

The five policies are:

  • Establish a 24-month interest-free loan program for small, independent primary care practices who have been negatively impacted by the COVID19 pandemic.

  • Reauthorize and fund, for a minimum of five years, the Community Health Center (CHC), Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) and National Health Service Corps (NHSC) programs.

  • Expand access to primary care for individuals and families with high-deductible health plans by eliminating cost-sharing for, at minimum, two visits with their primary care physician per year.

  • Enact provisions that would require Medicaid programs to compensate primary care physicians at rates at least equal to Medicare rates.

  • Establish a federal grant program that would assist solo and small group physician practices in purchasing and implementing telemedicine platforms. We would encourage that rural practices be prioritized.

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