California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Influx of Newly Insured Patients Could Strain Calif. Health Care System

It is unclear whether there will be enough health care providers in California to handle the influx of residents who are set to gain coverage under national health care reform legislation, the Sacramento Bee reports.

The legislation could provide up to 32 million of the country's 46 million uninsured residents with health insurance through government subsidies or increased eligibility for Medicaid programs.

Providing more residents with health insurance could ease the burden on county clinics and emergency departments, but experts say it could strain the state's supply of primary care physicians.

California already faces a shortage of primary care physicians. In addition, many primary care physicians are reluctant to treat patients enrolled in government health insurance programs, such as Medicare and Medi-Cal, because of low reimbursement rates. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.

According to the California Medical Association, the expected increase in Medicaid funding under the national health reform bill is unlikely to be enough to persuade physicians to treat more patients enrolled in government health insurance programs.

Marian Mulkey, a senior program officer at the California HealthCare Foundation, noted that the increase in demand will be gradual as many of the major expansion provisions will not take effect until 2014. CHCF is the publisher of California Healthline (Calvan, Sacramento Bee, 3/23).

This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.