Providers: Bills Will Fall Short of Curbing Calif. Physician Shortage

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California health care providers say that lawmakers' efforts this year to ease a physician shortage likely will fall short of the state's needs, Capital Public Radio's "KXJZ News" reports (Bartolone, "KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 9/16).

Background on Physician Shortage

Only 16 of the state's 58 counties have the supply of physicians recommended by the federal government.

In addition, the Association of American Medical Colleges says that nearly 30% of California's doctors are nearing retirement age.

Meanwhile, the state is preparing to expand Medi-Cal and require most residents to have health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, which could exacerbate the shortage. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program (California Healthline, 9/3).

Details of Efforts

In February, Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) introduced a bill (SB 493) that would expand the scope of practice for pharmacists to help address the physician shortage. Last week, the Legislature passed the measure and sent it to Gov. Jerry Brown (D) for consideration (California Healthline, 9/16).

Brown already has signed a separate measure (AB 1288) that would require the Medical Board of California to prioritize applications for physician licenses from individuals who agree to treat medically underserved populations.

Comments From Clinicians

Paul Phinney of the California Medical Association said the bills aim to "expand capacity while maintaining quality and safety."

However, Carmela Castellano-Garcia of the California Primary Care Association said the measures will not do enough to significantly curb the state's physician shortage.

"We are going to need much more significant efforts if we are really going to make a dent in the workforce crisis," Castellano-Garcia said.

She added, "If we continue to have vacancies and challenges filling physicians, it will [a]ffect our ability to see patients if we do not have the clinicians on board" ("KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 9/16).


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