California Medical Association Survey Finds Low Pay, Managed Care ‘Hassles’ Pushing Doctors Out of State
The California Medical Association says that doctors, frustrated with managed care and low pay, may "flee" the state, but the state's managed care industry dismisses the claims as "unsubstantiated nonsense," the Wall Street Journal reports. In a recent poll conducted by the association, half of the 2,300 physicians surveyed planned to quit, retire or leave the state during the next three years (Rundle, Wall Street Journal, 7/16). Three-fourths of respondents reported an "erosion in satisfaction with their work," while 57% reported "difficulty" in attracting new physicians to their practice or medical group. In addition, more than two-thirds of physicians said that they "would not advise their children to enter the profession." Respondents also reported a 26% drop in wages since 1995 and said that they "spent more time on administrative duties now than they did five years ago" (Silber, Contra Costa Times, 7/14). "This is a barometer of the mood of physicians in California. We need to look at ways to ward off a potential exodus of physicians from this state," CMA President Frank Staggers said. The poll, released Friday, represents 12% of the doctors who received surveys and 2.8% of the state's licensed physicians.
In contrast with the CMA survey, data from the Medical Board of California, which reported that 82,872 doctors practiced in the state last year, show that the number of doctors in the state has risen -- not declined -- in recent years (Wall Street Journal, 7/16). The CMA findings also "contradict" a recent University of California-San Francisco study that found an increase in state physicians. The California health insurance industry launched a "salvo of criticism" at the CMA survey, questioning the group's "conclusions and motives." Bobby Pena, a spokesperson for the California Association of Health Plans, said, "It doesn't surprise me that doctors have some level of dissatisfaction. But it's a leap to frighten the people of California and make them think that in a few years, they won't have a doctor" (Contra Costa Times, 7/14). The Journal reports that the CMA released the findings as "tensions" between doctors and health plans mount over a bill (AB 1600), which the state Assembly passed last month, that would "weaken" the managed care industry by allowing physicians to collectively bargain with health plans (Wall Street Journal, 7/16). The state Senate Judiciary Committee will address the legislation July 17. Health plans oppose the bill, maintaining that the measure would boost health insurance premiums. Although the CMA "denied manipulating the timing" of the survey's release, the group's officials said that they had conducted the poll in response to the UCSF study, which they criticized as flawed (Contra Costa Times, 7/14). The CMA survey is available at www.cmanet.org/upload/Physician_Supply_(Acrobat).pdf. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the survey.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.