Michigan Advocates Elevate Family Medicine, Primary Care Issues Among Members of Congress

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This week, a contingent of Michigan Family Physicians, residents and MAFP staff traveled to Washington, DC, to attend the American Academy of Family Physicians’ (AAFP) 2016 Family Medicine Congressional Conference (FMCC). This annual event provides an opportunity for Family Medicine advocates to enhance their advocacy skills, learn about issues pending in Congress that impact the specialty and delivery of care, and meet with Members of Congress.

This year's Michigan advocates included MAFP President Kim Yu, MD, FAAFP (Novi), President-Elect Robert Jackson, MD, MMM (Allen Park), Karen Mitchell, MD, FAAFP (Rochester), Anne Kittendorf, MD, FAAFP (Dexter), Lynn Gray, MD, FAAFP (St. Joseph), and Pam Rockwell, DO (Ann Arbor); MAFP resident members Brandon Karmo, DO (Waterfield), Bashar Yalldo, MD (South Lyon), and Michele Hofmesiter, MD (Canton), a recipient of the Association of Family Medicine Residency Directors' 2016 FMCC Resident Scholarship; and MAFP Chief Executive Officer Debra McGuire, MBA, IOM, CAE and MAFP Director of Government Affairs Christin Nohner, MPP.

"This annual conference provides an invaluable opportunity for Family Physicians to establish and nurture relationships with Members of Congress and their staff, and to bring Family Medicine and primary care issues to the forefront," said McGuire.

The Michigan advocates met with members of the Michigan congressional delegation to discuss prescription drug and opioid abuse; the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Program (THCGME); appropriations funding critical for investing in the future of high quality primary care; joining the House Primary Care Caucus; and addressing barriers to Direct Primary Care.

With respect to prescription drug and opioid abuse, the specific asks focused on increasing access to naloxone, expanding the existing patient limit for medication assisted treatment (MAT), and ensuring support for prescription drug monitoring programs. MAFP members emphasized that Michigan is ahead of the curve with its existing Michigan Automated Prescription System (MAPS), but that technological upgrades are badly needed to ensure MAPS can be effectively integrated into the existing workflow. Most of the feedback from congressional offices regarding the Academy’s support for access to naloxone and MAT was positive, and Congress is already taking steps to address the issue.

Michigan advocates also educated lawmakers and staff about the importance of dedicated and sustainable funding for the Teaching Health Center GME program (funding for the program is currently set to lapse in 2017), which is meeting expectations and demonstrating promising outcomes in terms of training and retaining primary care physicians in community-based, underserved settings. Our state is home to the second largest teaching health center in the country.

Despite an election year, which is often characterized by a reticent group of lawmakers and staff with respect to taking real action on issues, MAFP advocates were able to effectively convey the underlying message of the value that Family Physicians and access to primary care brings to the healthcare system.

Click here for pictures from the conference and visits on the Hill.

Do you have an interest in attending the Family Medicine Congressional Conference in 2017? If so, contact MAFP Director of Government Affairs Christin Nohner at cnohner@mafp.com or 517.664.9082.