Access to Primary Care Key to US Health Care Reform

Careers in primary care should be supported and promoted
By Jane Parry
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Nov. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Increasing the number of primary care physicians, especially family physicians, is crucial to solving the U.S. health care crisis, according to an article published online Nov. 3 in The Lancet.

Perry A. Pugno, M.D., and colleagues at the American Academy of Family Physicians in Leawood, Kan., write that without universal access to primary care, the geographical, socioeconomic, ethnic and racial disparities that currently exist in the U.S. health care system cannot be properly addressed.

The current lack of primary care physicians can be tackled in three ways, the authors write. Careers in primary care must be made more attractive to enable them to compete with better-paid, more lifestyle-friendly specialties; students' interests in primary care should be given priority; and training for primary care physicians should be supported, they propose. Payment reform also needs to be speeded up and incentives for after-hours coverage should be introduced, the authors add.

"The changes we need cannot be brought about by a single discipline of medicine. They require the concerted efforts of physicians, community leaders, businesses, policy makers, state and federal governments, and others," the authors write. "To fix our dysfunctional health care system is in the best interests of the USA. We know what needs to be done -- we simply require the political will to do it. Primary care, epitomized by family medicine, is the linchpin of success in all these endeavors."

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