Legislators and physicians announce package of bills to address physician shortage

April 16, 2013
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy Physician Workforce Professional Development & Education 

Increased residency slots, additional medical schools and expansion of rural placements part of solution

Sacramento- In anticipation of millions of newly insured patients entering the health care system in California, legislators joined together with the California Medical Association (CMA) and the California Academy of Family Physicians (CAFP) to rollout a package of bills to increase the number of physicians in California.

“The bills rolled out today by members of the Senate and Assembly show a strong commitment to increasing the physician workforce in California,” said Paul R. Phinney, M.D., CMA president. “The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has given us the opportunity to creatively address how health care delivery is structured in California, and with these bills, we can make sure patients throughout the state have access to top quality care.”

"Every Californian deserves access to quality health care, which means having physicians available in our communities," said Dr. Richard Pan, M.D., a health care work force expert and Chair of the Assembly Health Committee. "California Physicians have to complete four years of medical school after college, three to over seven years of residency training caring for patients under supervision, and passing rigorous exams in their specialty after training and every decade afterwards. In the process, many students and residents accumulate over $100,000 of debt. This package of bills will lower barriers for those physicians who wish to practice in underserved communities."

Two of the bills discussed today were SB 21 (Roth) and AB 27 (Medina). The bills would provide $15 million annually for the UC Riverside School of Medicine, set to open its doors in August of 2013.

“The UC Riverside Medical School is absolutely critical to meeting the very basic health care needs of the residents of Inland Southern California. With the implementation of the national Affordable Care Act, our underserved region will face even more demand for doctors and health care providers,” said Senator Richard D. Roth (D-Riverside).

“Providing state funding for the UC Riverside School of Medicine is crucial in our efforts to ensuring the Inland Empire receives access to affordable and basic health care,” said Assemblymember Medina. “There is currently a shortage of doctors in the region and with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act this emergency situation is going to turn catastrophic if we do not act now.”

Also part of the package is AB 1176 (Bocanegra and Bonta), supported by both CMA and CAFP. The bill would create additional residency slots in underserved communities to immediately increase access to care and prevent physicians from being forced to leave California to complete their clinical training after graduating from medical school. Currently, thousands of medical graduates are being forced out of state to complete their training at residency programs outside of California.

“With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act less than a year away, California is facing a crisis in terms of a shortage of physicians. Right now, we’re projected to need an additional 17,000 physicians in the next three years to meet the needs of the millions of Californians who will now receive health care,” said Assemblymember Bocanegra. “AB 1176 will generate thousands of more doctors and incentivize those that get their medical education to stay and practice medicine here in California. It’s projected to ensure hundreds of thousands of additional patient care visits each year.”

"Californians are depending on the Legislature to make certain that they have access to quality health care with implementation of the Affordable Care Act," said Assemblymember Bonta. "This is particularly true for those most in need, in light of California's push to expand Medi-Cal eligibility. "It is critical that we make real changes to strengthen our physician pipeline. AB 1176 will accomplish this and is why I am proud to Joint Author this bill with Assemblymember Bocanegra. By making it easier for California's medical school graduates to stay in this state, as AB 1176 does, patients in underserved communities will benefit by improved access to the best health care available.”

Also supporting AB 1176 is the California Academy of Family Physicians.

"Our state's primary care physician shortage will reach a crisis level by 2015," said Jeremy Fish, M.D., representing the 8,500-member California Academy of Family Physicians. "Already, 74 percent of California's 58 counties have fewer family medicine and other primary care physicians than they need. Communities can stay healthy only when they have adequate access to primary medical care, including preventive care and expert management of chronic conditions."

AB 565 (Salas) will help broaden the successful Steve Thompson Loan Repayment Program, which grants up to $105,000 in medical school loan repayment for the commitment to practice in an underserved area for three years.

“There are many communities in California that have physician shortages. In Kern County, there are 1,200 patients for every primary care physician which is nearly double the national average,” said Assemblymember Salas. “AB 565 will increase access by bringing much needed physicians to some of the most medically underserved populations in the Central Valley and throughout California.”

Also discussed at the press conference was AB 1288 (V.M. Perez), which would require the Medical Board of California to prioritize the applications of physician licenses of individuals who commit to serving a medically underserved population.

“In parts of my district, we face a serious shortage of primary care physicians, with only one full time doctor for every 9,000 people,” said Assemblymember V. Manuel Perez, who represents the Coachella and Imperial Valleys of southeastern California. “AB 1288 seeks to expedite licensing for physicians who commit to work in medically underserved regions or with underserved populations. This is a concrete action the state can take to help expand the ranks of qualified medical workforce so desperately needed in our state, particularly on the eve of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.”

AB 1176 and AB 565 are being heard in Assembly Health Committee this afternoon.


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