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Physician Reimbursement Battle Continues in California

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If you’re a physician who is looking for a job in California, you should be aware of a political battle that is currently being waged against “the 10 percent reimbursement cuts to doctors under Medi-Cal,” reports Pauline Bartolone of Capital Public Radio. No longer are certain legislators looking to only reverse those cuts; they’re also looking to “make some Medi-Cal payments equal to compensation under the federal Medicare program.”

Part of the problem, Dr. Luther Cobb, president of the California Medical Association, said is that the state’s “Medicaid rates are among the lowest in the nation.”

He told Bartolone, “When we see a patient in this program, it doesn’t pay for us to keep the office open.”

For a routine patient visit, a physician is lucky to get $16 from Medi-Cal, and State Senator Ed Hernandez feels higher rates would also solve the problem of Medi-Cal patients being turned away by providers.

“There are supposedly enough providers that take Medi-Cal, but there are not enough providers that take [patients] in the areas with the greatest needs,” Hernandez said. “So we need to do whatever we can to make sure we increase the number of providers and I think that can be done by increasing the rates.”

Unfortunately, a provider pay increase was not included in the governor’s proposed budget, Bartolone writes, even though general-fund spending on Medi-Cal is being given a 4.3 percent increase for a total of $18.6 billion.

This has led Hernandez to ask “why there is ‘a priority for other issues and not health and human services. I…feel that we at least have to have the conversation,’” especially since Medi-Cal impacts 12.2 million Californians.

Bartolone writes that the two bills being proposed, SB243 and AB366, are virtually “identical,” and “in some cases, [making Medi-Cal payments equal to compensation under the federal Medicare program] would increase payments to as much as three times the current Medi-Cal rate for a typical doctor visit.”

As physicians who are looking for jobs, would the Medi-Cal dilemma be enough to make you look elsewhere for job opportunities? Do you agree with the goals of the proposed bills?

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