As the nation’s only organization devoted to the needs of African American physicians, health professionals and their patients, the NMA serves as the conscience of the medical profession in the ongoing fight to eliminate health disparities in the nation’s health care delivery system. The NMA has historically been an unwavering advocate for health policies that improve the quality and availability of health care of African Americans and other underserved populations. For instance, the National Medical Association was the force behind such landmark reforms as Medicare and Medicaid. Today, the NMA continues to provide leadership in shaping the national health policy agenda through continued involvement in a variety of critical policy matters. Below is an overview of health policy focus:
Prioritize Preventive Care
The United States health care system faces serious challenges when it comes to prevention and disease management. Our healthcare system spends about 75 cents of every healthcare dollar dealing with chronic diseases, most of which are either preventable or treatable. Prevention and increased coordination of care would significantly alter the cost equation.
The NMA supports a shift toward prevention and disease management that will serve to improve quality of health care in all populations. We support the following actions taken by Congress in the recently enacted health reform legislation:
Requiring qualified health plans to provide coverage with cost-sharing for preventive services, recommended immunizations, and preventive care for infants, children and adolescents
Improved access to care by increasing funding for community health centers and the National Health Service Corps which will place over 8,500 health care professionals in medically under served areas
Establishing the National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council to coordinate prevention, wellness, and public health activities;
Providing grants to small employers that establish wellness programs
Preserve the Health Care Safety Net
As the “Conscience of American Medicine”, the NMA is very concerned about the preservation of the health care safety net. The NMA is convinced that advocacy efforts to protect entitlements such as Medicare and Medicaid are critical to the survival of the nation’s medically underserved populations.
Insured Americans, along with federal and state governments, already foot the bill for the uncompensated care of the uninsured. Higher premiums and disproportionate share (DSH) payments could be reduced if more of the uninsured were covered under their own (affordable) plans. We support the following actions taken by Congress in the recently enacted health reform legislation:
Expanding Medicaid up to 133% of the federal poverty level;
Phasing down the beneficiary coinsurance rate in the Medicare Part D coverage gap;
Eliminates cost-sharing for proven preventive services in Medicare and Medicaid by 2011.
Reduce Health Disparities
The NMA has been responding to inequities in healthcare throughout its history. Although the reasons for disparate health are numerous and complex, bold action must be taken now to reduce and eliminate disparities. One such way is through health information technology (HIT).
HIT adoption stands to benefit all Americans by improving information exchange, reducing errors, and cutting costs. We recommend the following actions be taken by Congress:
Use Health Information Technology (HIT) to collect uniform data by race, ethnicity, and primary language, among other criteria.
Use cultural competency, improved care coordination, and comparative effectiveness research (CER), among other tools, to contribute to reducing disparities.
For more information on the policy focus of the NMA please visit the NMA National Policy Page.