ACP to Congress: Don’t cut primary care workforce programs

February 8, 2012

The American College of Physicians urged Congress not to cut funding for the National Health Services Corps. Learn why the ACP says it’s so important.

The president of the American College of Physicians (ACP) wants lawmakers to spare primary care physician (PCP) workforce development funds from the budget ax.

Congress should not slash funds for primary care scholarships and loan forgiveness under the National Health Services Corps, says Virginia L. Hood, MBBS, MPH, FACP, president of the ACP, during the organization’s annual State of the Nation’s Health Care briefing January 26. Congress is considering how to cut $1.2 trillion from the federal budget.

“The National Health Services Corps has already enabled thousands of additional young physicians to go into primary care,” Hood told eConsult. “That has been one of the great successes over the last couple years. It would be a real tragedy to see it cut.”

With more than 10,000 clinicians, the NHSC provided healthcare services to about 10.5 million patients in 2011, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. In 2008, 3,600 NHSC providers provided services to 3.7 million patients. The United States is facing a projected shortage of more than 40,000 PCPs by 2020, according to the ACP.

Like other physician groups, the ACP advocates using funds formerly dedicated to military operations to eliminate the Medicare sustainable growth rate formula that threatens to cut physician payments every year.

Other recommendations from the ACP’s State of the Nation’s Health Care report:

Enact policies to reduce the costs of defensive medicine, such as caps on non-economic damages, limits on contingency fees, and other reforms that have proven to be effective in California and other states.

Make structural improvements in Medicare to reduce costs and improve quality, such as authorizing the federal government to negotiate drug prices and/or require drug manufacturers to pay a rebate under Medicare Part D.

Reform federal tax policies to encourage individuals to consider cost, such as eliminating the tax deductibility on so-called “Cadillac” health plans, which are high-benefit, high annual premium cost plans where members have very little out-of-pocket expense.

Establish a multi-stakeholder initiative to promote high value care and reduce utilization of marginal, unsafe, and ineffective care.

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