Physicians and Legislators Advocate for Package of Bills that will Increase Access to Care

Sacramento, California - As part of the California Medical Association’s (CMA) Annual Lobby Day, physicians and legislators joined together, advocating for a package of bills that will increase access to health care throughout the state.

“The legislators that have joined us here today have shown an exemplary commitment to ensuring access to health care is more than just an insurance card,” said Richard Thorp, MD, CMA president. “There is a lot of work to be done and the bills we’re highlighting here today will help patients get access to quality health care across the state.”

Assembly Bill 1805 (Skinner) would restore a 10 percent cut made to California’s Medicaid program (Medi-Cal) in 2011. Medi-Cal reimbursement rates are among the lowest in the nation, often reimbursing providers below the cost of care. Many Medi-Cal patients have difficulty finding providers able to care for them.  As millions of new patients enter the health care delivery system, reimbursement rates must be sustainable so that patients have real access to care.

“Getting a pizza delivered costs about the same as what California now reimburses doctors for patient visits through Medi-Cal, it should be clear to everyone which service is worth more,” Assemblymember Skinner said. “California needs to fix reimbursement rates in Medi-Cal so we don't undermine the very program designed to cover millions of individuals and families in need of healthcare.”

Assembly Bill 1759 (Pan) extends the reimbursement increase for certain Medi-Cal primary care providers, currently  mandated by federal health care reform legislation , but  set to expire on December 31, 2014, through 2015 and indefinitely beyond.

“I have sought to make the Medi-Cal program more cost-effective, transparent, and accountable,” said Dr. Richard Pan, Chair of Assembly Health Committee. “The legislation that we are discussing here today continues this effort. Without adequate payment, Medi-Cal becomes an empty promise of coverage without actual access to care”

Assembly Bill 1771 (V. Manuel Pérez) would increase access to care, especially in underserved areas, by requiring health insurance companies licensed in the State of California to pay contracted physicians for telephone and electronic patient management telehealth services.

“When doctors are able to take the time for phone calls and emails from patients to answer their questions, it not only improves the patient experience, but it also reduces unneeded office visits,” said Assemblymember Pérez, who represents the southeastern California Assembly District 56.  “In medically underserved areas like the Coachella and Imperial Valleys, AB 1771 will help increase access by improving the capacity of physicians to meet the demand for medical care.”

Assembly Bill 2458 (Bonilla) would create additional residency positions to train very much needed primary care physicians by establishing the framework to administer grants to medical education residency programs at hospitals and teaching health centers.

“California is currently faced with the urgent need for more primary care physicians,” said Assemblywoman Susan A. Bonilla of Concord.  “In order to address this deficiency and ensure Californians can receive proper health care, AB 2458 creates a Graduate Medical Education Fund to finance additional positions at residency programs in hospitals and health centers.  Creating additional residency slots allows more doctors to train in California, and more often than not, these doctors will continue to practice in our state and provide care for the underserved.”

Assembly bills 1805, 1759 and 2458 are being heard in Assembly Health Committee this afternoon.

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