AAFP Federal Advocacy Update, December 2022

See what the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) federal advocacy team has been working on.  

House of Medicine Urges Congressional Action to Avert Medicare Payment Cuts 

The 2023 Medicare physician fee schedule includes a significant reduction to the Medicare conversion factor, which, absent congressional action, will result in approximately 4.5% in payment cuts for all Part B clinicians beginning January 1. These cuts, coupled with rising practice costs due to inflation and Medicare sequestration, are untenable and will place additional strain on primary care practices. 

AAFP actions: 

Primary Care Physician Groups Ask Congress to Act on Year-end Priorities 

The AAFP, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Physicians, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Psychiatric Association and American Osteopathic Association, representing more than 590,000 physicians, joined together to urge Congress to take legislative action before the end of the year on critical priorities to that ensure patients have access to high-quality, affordable health care.  

AAFP actions: 

Along with averting full Medicare payment cuts and streamlining prior authorization, our organizations called on Congress to invest in and support these health care priorities. 

  • Medicaid and CHIP: We called on Congress to enact permanent, nationwide Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) coverage for 12 months postpartum and 12 months of continuous eligibility for children to ensure that children and new parents can rely on coverage.   
  • Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) program: We urged Congress to include a multi-year extension for the THCGME program, which has trained more than 1,730 primary care physicians and dentists (63 percent of whom are family physicians and are more likely to practice in underserved areas).   
  • Mental health: We asked Congress to help address the mental health and substance use crisis by investing in the integration of behavioral health with primary care.  
  • Telehealth: We urged Congress to extend Medicare telehealth flexibilities through 2024. 

Health and Human Services Proposes Prior Authorization Rule  

The AAFP applauds the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for issuing a proposed rule to implement electronic prior authorization standards in Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, CHIP and qualified health plans on federal exchanges. The AAFP has repeatedly called for streamlined prior authorization to alleviate physician burden and address care delays. 
This rule is a significant step toward reducing the administrative burdens and barriers to care imposed by prior authorization. However, comprehensive reform is needed to standardize, automate and reduce the volume of prior authorizations and ensure that patients have timely access to care.   

AAFP actions: 

  • The AAFP called on the Senate to pass the Improving Seniors’ Timely Access to Care Act (H.R. 3173/S. 3018) before the end of the year, which would codify electronic prior authorization in Medicare Advantage and improve transparency of prior authorization requirements.   
  • The AAFP is reviewing the proposed rule and will provide comprehensive comments ahead of the March 15, 2023, deadline.  

AAFP Shares Recommendations on Cybersecurity Policies in Health Care 

The migration to digital health and electronic storage of patient health data has improved the ability for patients to access their health information but has also increased the risk of cyberattacks for all health care organizations. While privacy and security of patient health data is a priority for physician practices, not all of them have the resources, financial capacity or technical knowledge needed to properly establish and implement best practices in cybersecurity.  
AAFP action: The AAFP shared feedback and policy recommendations with Senator Mark Warner in response to his report Cybersecurity Is Patient Safety: Policy Options in the Health Care Sector. Our letter highlighted ways to strengthen cybersecurity in the health care sector in an attainable and sustainable way for primary care physician practices to protect patient health data. 

Physician Groups Oppose Legislation That Disrupts Physician-led, Team-based Care 

The AAFP, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Physicians, sent a joint letter to Congress expressing strong concern with the Equitable Community Access to Pharmacist Services Act (H.R. 7213), which would expand Medicare coverage to permanently include select services provided by a pharmacist. 
Physicians work closely with pharmacists and fully appreciate the key role pharmacists play in the delivery of high-quality health care. However, pharmacists should not replace primary care clinicians as patients’ first-contact source of health care. Physician-led, team-based care has a proven track record of success in improving the quality of patient care, reducing costs, and allowing all health care professionals to spend more time with their patients.  
Congress must advance policies that grow the primary care workforce, eliminate cost barriers to primary care, and strengthen the medical home.  

Family Physicians Urge Everyone, Including Pregnant Patients, to Get Vaccinated  

Flu activity is surging at alarming rates, and pregnant individuals are at increased risk of severe illness and poor outcomes related to influenza infection. During the recent National Influenza Vaccination Week, the AAFP and other health organizations urged health care professionals to strongly recommend flu vaccination to all patients, especially those who are pregnant.  

Given the anticipated increase in COVID-19 and influenza cases this fall and winter, the AAFP and other health care professional organizations united to remind the public of the importance of vaccinations and early treatment. A strong recommendation from a trusted clinician is one of the most effective strategies to increase vaccine uptake.  

For the latest policy updates impacting family medicine, follow AAFP Advocacy at @aafp_advocacy.

Post author: AAFP National, aafp.org/advocacy

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