Physicians Find Ways To Treat Uninsured, Low-Income Residents

Physicians in California and other states increasingly are trying to find ways to provide care for low-income, uninsured individuals so that patients do not have to avoid seeking medical care, USA Today reports.

Numbers of Uninsured

California has more uninsured residents -- seven million -- than any other state, as well as one of the highest percentages of uninsured residents, according to USA Today.

According to Gallup, the rate of uninsured residents in California increased to more than one in five last year, while the national rate reached one in six. In Los Angeles County, the uninsured rate has reached nearly 30%.

Carol Lee -- president and CEO of the California Medical Association Foundation -- said, "All doctors are talking about is how more and more of the middle class is showing up uninsured in their offices."

Physicians' Response

Although many physician practices also are dealing with financial challenges, they are using a number of strategies to help patients.

For example, some doctors are:

  • Asking drug representatives to give more samples that can be distributed to patients;
  • Connecting patients with federally funded programs or charitable organizations that provide prescription drugs at a discounted price or at no cost;
  • Offering discounted or no-cost care; and
  • Providing advice to patients over the phone so they do not have to visit the physician's office in person.

The USA Today story was produced in collaboration with the California HealthCare Foundation's Center for Health Reporting. CHCF is the publisher of California Healthline (Kipling, USA Today, 9/13).

Peter Gambee
Our nation's health care "system" is broken, and everybody with any connection to the "system" knows it. What most know, but will not admit is that the publicly funded "health insurance" programs are the MOST broken, and are making it impossible for private health insurers and providers to function. Medicare and Medicaid have always paid less than the actual cost of providing health care. Today, they pay much less - in some cases about 40%. All of this worked when private health plans OVER-paid for health care services. This cross-subsidy kept the system working. Managed care changed all of that. Today, private health plans pay as little as possible for covered services, and they are covering fewer services every day. This loads the burden on the shoulders of private practice physicians, and hospitals that are federally mandated to treat every person who enters their Emergency Departments. Putting the government in control of all health care will only make matters worse.
Robert B. Livingston
I believe it is becoming harder for physicians to implement creative strategies to help uninsured patients in our society which is becoming ever more bureaucratized. I suspect programs like Healthy San Francisco or planned federal health-insurance expansion programs, rather than facilitate care to the poor, actually squeeze a formerly unprofitable niche and act as a gatekeeper to care. While we may always have altruistic and sensible doctors among us who wish to heal and help-- will potential patients be able to circumvent all the red tape to ever actually get to see them? I envision a future of emergency "events" with care teams helicoptering in for a day of stitch-ups, pill dispensing, and photo taking. This country needs universal single-payer health care. Can we get it so long as the richest and best cared for-- the parasitic financial elites-- own the game and control the pot?

to share your thoughts on this article.