Now is the time to come together and commit to making high quality primary care the foundation of our health care system. This will be a change for New Jersey, but it’s a long overdue positive and important change that we can define and design together.
Depending on our age, health status, and our social determinants, each of us has different needs from our primary care clinician. But all of us do better when we have care at the ready from someone we trust who focuses on our needs and preferences. Without access to this type of primary care, minor health issues may become more serious; chronic diseases that could be managed may instead lead to unnecessary hospitalizations or death; health disparities in our communities increase; and health care spending continues to rise, pushing out other priorities.
The COVID-19 pandemic increased our need for connectivity to high quality primary care. A stronger system of primary care would have enabled us to better address the increased need for mental health and social supports and created greater access to trusted sources of public health information. Indeed, as spelled out by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (“NASEM”) in its recent , “primary care is the only health care component where an increased supply is associated with better population health and more equitable outcomes.”
That is why our Winter All Council Conference, on December 15 at 2:45-5 pm, will explore how we can create and sustain the primary care system we need to provide safe, equitable, and affordable health care so all people can live their healthiest lives. We need all voices in health care to help us create a shared vision for the future: employers, consumers, unions, people who are uninsured, biopharma innovators, public health experts, clinicians, insurers, and policy makers.
At our conference, we’ll hear about new ways forward from one of the authors of the NASEM’s report, Implementing High Quality Primary Care. And then from a panel of our members who are working now to transform the health care system, increasing investments in high quality primary care, and supporting innovations in the way that care is delivered. We hope you will join us to actively listen, share, and explore questions, including:
Our workforce: How can we make sure we have the clinicians we need to care for our aging and increasingly diverse communities? How can we use workforce data and then adjust our education, licensing, and regulatory systems to ensure that access to primary care is meaningful and equitable?
Payment and delivery models: How are different models of primary care being tested and scaled right now in New Jersey and nationally — and how do they differ in clinician and patient experiences? We’ll consider the topic of payment parity and how to increase access in an equitable way.
Technology: We’ll also consider how virtual health including telehealth, e-consults with specialists, home monitoring, and home-based care is changing and expanding the role and reliance on primary care.
This discussion comes at a critical time. We now have over two million individuals receiving their health care through NJ FamilyCare. We are entering our second year of running a State-based health insurance exchange. And our State, which is aging, is working on a strategic plan to support healthy aging and communities. Now is the exact time to consider primary care’s foundational role in these systems and our entire health care system. At the same time, pursuant to the law enacting this year’s the State will undertake important data collection including conducting a detailed analysis of what it spends on primary care compared to other types of care and producing a market-scan of the various State-funded, team-based primary care models, including descriptions of their quality and performance measures. The budget bill (page 279) requires that all Medicaid MCOs will report spending on primary care and the Department of Pensions and Benefits “shall conduct a market scan of State-funded team-based primary care models.” This information will be critical to advancing primary care in a thoughtful and strategic way.
As always, we look forward to working on these important issues with you, our members. Please save the date – December 15 at 2:45 – 5 pm. We will follow up with more information soon.