California physicians and lawmakers are trying to draw attention to a shortage of doctors in the state. They made the point jointly in Sacramento Tuesday. As Pauline Bartolone reports from Sacramento, they agree more doctors will be needed to see millions of people who will start enrolling in coverage next year.
Physicians wearing white coats stood next to California lawmakers on the steps of the Capitol to announce a handful of proposals. Dr. Jeremy Fish of the California Academy of Family Physicians was one of them. He says getting more funding for medical residency training will help avert a primary care crisis under the Affordable Care Act.
“We could see as many as 1,000 new family physician and primary care physicians in California seeing upwards of a half-million patients a year just during their training. After they’re finished with training, that number will expand. So this is both a short term and a long term solution for California,” says Fish.
The physicians also want funding for a medical school, and they want to change guidelines in a program that helps place doctors in underserved areas. But Micah Weinberg of the Bay Area Council says the doctors proposals come too late, and on their own wouldn’t fill the gaps in primary care. He says the state must pass measures that would expand the roles of other health care professionals, such as nurse practitioners and pharmacists.
“Physicians have been voting with their feet for a scope of practice expansion over the course of the past 20 to 30 years by simply not becoming primary care physicians,” says Weinberg.
The bill to increase the number of residency slots in California has passed its first committee test. Bills to expand the roles of other health professionals will be heard on Monday.