Nicholas Cohen, MD
Since medical school, I have seen the unrivaled value family physicians provide to the patients they see. I was unaware—until this month—of the impact family physicians can have beyond their clinic walls on the health of their community at the local, regional, and national level. Our potential impact in this expanded sphere became clear to me on a visit to Capitol Hill with the Family Medicine Congressional Conference.
What is the Family Medicine Congressional Conference?
FMCC attendees outside the office of Senator Sherrod Brown.
It is a 2-day conference in Washington, DC, open to anyone in family medicine. Day one I learned about the current priorities in family medicine and received practical, hands-on training in advocacy. Day two I visited members of Congress with others from my state in prearranged meetings to engage legislators in issues important to me and my patients.
Hope Wittenberg, MA
Director, Government Relations
This past session of Congress was frustrating. Seemingly no movement was made on spending levels for health programs, GME reform, and on broader national issues such as gun control or immigration reform. Brinksmanship over the national debt led to a 16-day government shutdown that cost the government money.
In the aftermath of the shutdown, however, key lawmakers sat down and worked out a budget.
This budget set the overall spending levels for the Fiscal Year 2014 (Oct 1, 2013–Sept 30, 2014) enabling the appropriations committees, which are in charge of discretionary spending, to move forward and craft a spending bill. When Congress returned in January from their winter recess, appropriators were hard at work on the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, which culminated in some success for some of our key health programs.
Historically, both AHRQ and Title VII primary care programs have limited support in the House. Both programs have been zeroed out in the House version of the spending bill in recent years.
However, the spending bill kept them intact, with Title VII primary care support growing to $39.6 million (only a 1% increase). Unfortunately, the current amount of Title VII funding, while enough to fund continuing grants, isn’t large enough to allow for a competitive cycle again this year. AHRQ’s total spending, including trust fund transfers, grew to $471 million (9% increase). AHRQ’s increase was mainly due to expanded funding from the Patient-Centered Outcome Research Trust Fund as mandated in the Affordable Care Act. Continue reading