This week, Assembly Joint Resolution 13 received bipartisan support in the California State Senate today with a 24–10 vote. The joint resolution urges the president and Congress to provide resources to increase the supply of physicians in California in order to improve access to care in underserved areas. The resolution also encourages the president and Congress to consider solutions that would increase the number of graduate medical education residency positions to keep pace with the growing need for physicians in California and the United States.
“With the baby boomers beginning to retire, national health care reform expanding coverage to millions of previously uninsured citizens, obesity rates hitting epidemic levels and the repercussions of the national recession and California’s own severe budget deficit still playing out, it is more important than ever that we continue to assess, address and reform the obstacles facing California’s healthcare system,” James G. Hinsdale, MD, president of the California Medical Association said.
“The most important of these obstacles, and one that is projected to grow substantially in the coming years, is ensuring sufficient and timely physician access for every Californian in need of a physician’s care.”
The Council on Graduate Medical Education (COGME) recommends that a state have between 60-80 primary care physicians per 100,000 people. In California, there are on average 63 primary care physicians for every 100,000 people. However, 42 out of California's 58 counties fall below COGME’s minimum recommendations regarding adequate physician supply for primary care.
SFMS and CMA have been active on a number of fronts to address the challenges of physician supply and distribution, including:
- Working with the Legislature to create the Steve Thompson Scholarship program. The program would provide up to $105,000 in scholarships to selected participants who agree in writing prior to completing an accredited medical or osteopathic school to serve a minimum of three years in “medically underserved areas” or where unmet propriety needs for physicians exist as determined by the California Healthcare Workforce Policy Commission.
- Creating the Steve Thompson Loan Repayment Program that provides grants to pay off medical loans for physicians working in underserved areas. Each participating physician receives up to $105,000 in exchange for a three-year service commitment in a medically underserved area of the state.
- Supporting new medical schools, UC Merced and UC Riverside, and pushing an expedited timeline to build them.
- Supporting efforts to increase the diversity of the physician workforce through CMA's Ethnic Medical Organization Section.
- Promoting increased incentives for pursuing primary care and supporting primary care physicians to keep their practices viable.