Policies to Transform Primary Care: The Gateway to Better Health and Health Care

More people receive care from a primary care provider each month than any other health professional. They often serve as an entry point in the health care system - connecting patients to the other specialists, treatment options and even social services needed to get and stay healthy. Additionally, we know that primary care is associated with better health outcomes and lower costs – particularly for patients with complex health needs. But there are a number of problems consumers experience in trying to access this high-value care. It’s often hard for consumer to find a primary care provider, consumers still face affordability barriers to accessing primary care, and when they can access primary care, that care often doesn’t meet their health care needs.

Because primary care is the gateway to the health system, a transformed health system that meets the health needs of all people must start with re-envisioning how we deliver primary care. If we can utilize primary care to catch chronic health issues or social needs early and address those needs in a coordinated and comprehensive way, it is possible to lower health care costs, improve health outcomes and patient satisfaction, and begin to tackle health disparities. Advocates and policy makers who are working towards a truly patient-centered health system must begin addressing the legislative, administrative, and cultural barriers standing in the way of primary care policy agenda that will move us closer to this vision.

This report gives advocates several federal and state level avenues for pursuing primary care reform as a proactive means of addressing poor health outcomes for consumers and high costs for all.