January 10, 2017
Area(s) of Interest: Access to Care Advocacy
The California Medical Association (CMA), representing over 43,000 physicians statewide in all modes of practice and specialties, today issued the following statement in response to Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed 2017-18 state budget:
“We’re disappointed that Governor Brown’s budget ignores the will of voters who supported the California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016 (Proposition 56) by proposing to offset general fund obligations with tobacco tax revenues rather than investing in the overburdened Medi-Cal system to improve access to care,” said CMA President Ruth E. Haskins, M.D. “The language of Prop 56 was clear – the people voted overwhelmingly in support of improving payments for programs and providers to ensure that patients can see a doctor when and where they need one.”
Last year, CMA co-sponsored Prop 56 with the intent of saving lives put at risk by tobacco products and improving the access and quality of medical services for all Californians – especially our most vulnerable communities who rely on Medi-Cal for basic care. Ample research demonstrates that the Medi-Cal system is struggling from persistent underfunding. As a result, California ranks among the lowest in the nation in payments to providers. These chronically low reimbursement rates have a direct effect on Medi-Cal patients’ ability to receive timely treatment from a physician.
Currently, poor provider reimbursement rates mean that only 40 percent of California’s physicians provide 80 percent of Medi-Cal visits. As a result, more than half of Medi-Cal enrollees report difficulty finding a primary or specialty care physician. Medi-Cal patients are more likely than those with private insurance or Medicare to postpone needed care due to long appointment wait times, leading to unnecessary, costly emergency room visits. Not only do these unnecessary emergency visits increase state costs; they inflate emergency room wait times for Californians experiencing true medical emergencies. To fix these problems, California must increase rates so that it is viable for more physicians to participate in the system.
With more than 14 million Californians relying on Medi-Cal programs to provide basic and specialty care for serious diseases, the stakes are high. Californians voted for the tobacco tax to remove these barriers to reliable and quality care. California cannot afford to continue starving this program by diverting Prop 56 revenues to cover the state’s general fund obligations.
“We must honor the will of the voters and use the estimated $1 billion in new health care revenue for its intended purpose, instead of writing a blank check to the general fund,” said Dr. Haskins. “We look forward to working with the legislature and the Brown administration to develop a solution that doesn’t supplant the will of California voters or put low-income families and communities at risk.”
Editor’s note: those interested in more information on Medi-Cal reimbursement rates may find additional information here and here.
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The California Medical Association represents the state's physicians with more than 43,000 members in all modes of practice and specialties. CMA is dedicated to the health of all patients in California. For more information, please visit cmanet.org, and follow CMA on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.