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Did you know? Health reform actually helps primary care!

By Alissa Manzoeillo

Did you know it’s National Primary Care Week? Well, it is! While many of Doctors for America’s over 16,000 doctors and med students are primary care providers, all of our doctors and supporters understand the importance of making sure their patients receive high-quality affordable primary care.

Unfortunately, due to the increasing numbers of Americans who are uninsured or underinsured, more and more people are depending on emergency rooms as their primary care. Here, they aren’t able to build relationships with their providers and won’t receive the long-term support they need for recovery or addressing chronic illnesses.

Having access to primary care enables patients and providers to focus on prevention, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, catching problems at the beginning stages, and keeping patients out of the emergency room. It also enables non-primary care providers to count on having that base support system when targeting a patient’s specialized problem.

Fortunately, even though there is quite a bit of misinformation and lies saying it does otherwise, the ACA address the challenges primary care providers and patients face when working to get people the routine care they need – instead of being rushed in and out of a doctor’s office or getting pushed into procedures.

The ACA does this by:

Increasing Access:

-          32 million people will get insured under the ACA through new insurance exchanges, Medicaid expansion, rules ending the worst insurance company practices, and providing subsidies and tax credits to both Americans purchasing private insurance through the exchanges and small businesses providing coverage for their employees.

-          These new policies will make it easier to get insurance especially if you have a pre-existing condition, are self-employed, or own a small business.

-          Being insured makes it much more likely that you can see a primary care provider to take care of illness before it gets serious.

Increasing the Number of Primary Care Providers:

-          Funds residency training programs to train 500 new primary care physicians by 2015.

-          Trains 600 new physician assistants, who practice medicine as members of a team with their supervising physician.

-          Trains 600 more nurse practitioners to provide comprehensive primary care.

-          Establishes 10 new nurse-managed health clinics, which assist in the training of nurse practitioners to provide comprehensive primary health care services to populations living in medically underserved communities.

-          Gives States resources and grants to plan and implement innovative strategies to expand their primary care workforce by 10-25% over 10 years to meet increased demand.

-          Gives primary care doctors a 10% bonus to make it more enticing to practice primary care.

 ACA Shifting the Focus Toward Quality—Not Just Quantity

Too many providers feel the pressure to increase the number of patients they see instead of focusing on the quality of the care they provide them. Fortunately, the ACA has begun to change that.

-          The Partnership for Patients: Better Care, Lower Costs is a new public-private partnership of providers, patient advocates, and other leaders who are making hospital care safer, more reliable, and less costly.

-          The new Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute focuses on research that looks at what treatments work best – instead of industry-sponsored studies that skew toward what makes the most money.

-          Hospitals will be paid based on not only on the number of patients they see, but how well they take care of those patients – by focusing on decreasing complication rates.

-          Accountable Care Organizations are patient-centered organizations where the patient and providers are true partners in care decisions. This provides coordinated care and less fractured care, increasing the overall quality.

 -              Medicare and Medicaid are leading the way on new models of paying primary care providers (Patient-Centered Medical Homes and other models) so they can focus more attention on counseling, prevention, and preventing complications of chronic disease – instead of needing to squeeze in as many short patient visits as possible.


Because of the Affordable Care Act and the efforts of thousands of people working to implement it, we are beginning to focus our care and efforts on increasing the quality of the care, access to that care, and decreasing the expensive, highly fractured care many of our patients have come to rely on. Our patients, hospitals, and providers can’t afford to stop now. We must continue to change the conversation from talking plain numbers to talking about healthy lives. Help change the conversation by downloading and printing this helpful fact sheet on primary care and the ACA.


The Affordable Care Act is the first step in the right direction.  We must make sure we implement the ACA and build on it to ensure patients have access to the affordable high-quality primary care that doctors have always fought to provide.

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