Doctor Shortage Could Hinder Schwarzenegger Reform Plans
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) health reform plan relies on increased Medi-Cal reimbursement rates to entice more physicians to treat low-income patients, but San Joaquin Valley health leaders say the plan would not go far enough to address the region's physician shortage, the Fresno Bee reports. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
Medi-Cal currently pays physicians 59% of the rate they are paid to care for Medicare patients. Schwarzenegger's reform plan would increase Medi-Cal reimbursements to about 80% of Medicare reimbursements, but physicians say the new rates still would fall short of the cost of providing care.
Physicians and clinic operators also are concerned that patients who become insured under the governor's plan will seek more care, placing further strain on clinics that already are short on space and doctors, the Bee reports.
Schwarzenegger administration officials said the plan would be phased in to prevent providers from being overwhelmed with new patients. The plan also would increase the number of nurse practitioners that doctors can supervise from four to six.
Ruth Liu, associate secretary for health policy for the Health and Human Services Agency, said that the governor's plan would not completely alleviate the shortage but that an administration task force is looking into other issues that need to be addressed (Schultz, Fresno Bee, 10/28).
The health care reform debate between Schwarzenegger and Democratic legislative leaders "has focused attention on a key question: How much can people afford to pay for health care?" Daniel Weintraub writes in a Sacramento Bee opinion piece. Democrats "see health care reform, in part, as a chance to redistribute income to poor and middle-income people, even those who already have health insurance," Weintraub writes.
"Schwarzenegger's plan does some of that as well, but his overriding goal has been to broaden access to at least minimum coverage while recognizing that some people will still have to pay a significant share of their income for health care," Weintraub writes (Weintraub, Sacramento Bee, 10/30).