Overtime Law Affecting ER Doctors Hurts Physician Groups
A one-year-old state law which effectively mandates that emergency room doctors receive overtime when they work more than eight hours a day has created a new financial burden on physician groups and managed care companies, the East Bay Business Times reports. During negotiations for AB 60, which took effect in January and mandated that employers pay overtime for any work beyond eight hours per day, the California Healthcare Association and the Service Employees International Union agreed to exempt most health care workers from the eight-hour limit, but "forgot about emergency room doctors." According to Elliot Nipomnick, head of the Emergency Physicians Medical Group and director of emergency medicine at St. Rose Hospital in Hayward, a system of hourly wages for emergency room physicians works best due to the 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week nature of the ER and the fact that many doctors are independent contractors or are part of a medical corporation. Emergency room managers have been forced to cut shifts -- even though many hospitals are struggling to staff their ERs -- because they don't have enough money to pay for overtime costs. "This has been a horrible burden. We still haven't figured a way around it," Nipomnick said. Many physicians also oppose the law because they prefer to work 12-hour shifts and get more days off rather than work five eight-hour shifts a week. Managed care companies oppose the law because, Kaiser Permanente Associate Director Sharon Levine said, any overtime costs would have to be passed on to plan subscribers. "Our members can't afford for us to spend twice as much per hour to provide the same level of service. It's not a huge overhaul of the system, but it is an inconvenience," she said (Mladinich, East Bay Business Times, 12/11).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.