DOCTOR SHORTAGE: Blame Medi-Cal Reimbursements, Not Affirmative Action
Blasting a recent Los Angeles Times article that attributed the physician shortages in low-income neighborhoods to the end of affirmative action programs, Dr. Ahmed Ghouri of the University of California-Irvine Medical Center countered that the real culprit is low Medi-Cal reimbursements. In a letter to the editor, Ghouri says, "Medi- Cal and Medicaid payments for treating the poor are so abysmal that it is impossible to make a living taking care of poor people." The challenge of "encouraging a young, idealistic doctor with $120,000 in student loans to work for $15 an hour seeing indigent people -- in the face of rising overhead, employee costs, administrative hassles and malpractice costs" is daunting, Ghouri argues. Ghouri notes that Medi-Cal offers $42 for a physician to provide epidural anesthesia to a woman in labor. For this fee, Ghouri says, "the doctor arrives in the middle of the night, places a catheter near a pregnant woman's spinal cord and assumes all risks and liabilities for injuries, for the mother and baby. To assert that restoring affirmative action will compensate for such unfair reimbursement to doctors is a pipe dream" (4/26).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.