April 16, 2015
Area(s) of Interest: Access to Care Advocacy Health Care Reform
The importance of ensuring access to care for Californians and possible policy solutions, including increasing the physician workforce and expanding health care technology, were key topics during a panel discussion at the California Medical Association’s (CMA) annual Legislative Advocacy Day on April 14.
The panel, composed of Assembly Health Committee Chair Rob Bonta, Assembly Business and Professions Committee Chair Susan Bonilla and moderator CMA Senior Vice President Janus Norman, delved first into California’s ongoing implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
“Providing accessible high-quality health care to as many Californians as possible is my goal and something I’m very passionate about,” Bonta said. “I believe that health care is a right, not a privilege, and is for everyone – not just for the few.”
Bonta noted two challenges to this goal, including ensuring those who are covered can truly access providers when they need to, as well as reducing the number of people without coverage. “While we’ve made great strides in reducing the number of uninsured in California, there are still significant numbers who are uninsured – 3 million this year,” Bonta said, adding that California’s significant undocumented population – estimated at 1 million – also doesn’t receive coverage under the ACA.
To help resolve these challenges, Bonta authored AB 366, which would restore a cut made to Medi-Cal reimbursement rates and raise those rates to Medicare levels. Also on Tuesday, that bill passed unanimously through the Assembly Committee on Health.
Bonilla discussed the need to avoid a “false promise” by fully funding Medi-Cal, as well as the need for “robust and reimbursable telehealth” services. She also emphasized the need to resolve California’s physician shortage. “It’s really a waste of California resources to have medical students that then have to leave the state because we aren’t going to be able to find a [residency] spot for them,” she said. “We want them to stay in California.”
Bonilla concluded the panel by asking physicians to stay involved in the policy-making process. “What does the profession need? The answers need to come from you,” she said. “These are all issues that we really rely upon your input in order to make wise polices that are actually going to work.”