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SCHEDULING NOTE: Roundtable will air at 89.5 FM at 12:30 p.m. today, instead of noon.

New Rules Limit Wait Times For HMO Patients

— California has become the first state in the nation to limit how long a person has to wait before they can see a doctor. The new rules will cover some 21 million Californians enrolled in HMOs.

The regulations give HMO patients the right to see a doctor within ten business days of requesting an appointment. The wait time to see a specialist can be no longer than 15 business days.

Patrick Johnston heads up the California Association of Health Plans. He says HMOs are committed to making the new rules work.

"Because it's important for patients to see doctors when they need to, that's what health plans are there to ensure, and our partners are the doctors, and hospitals, and other medical providers," Johnston says.

The rules have been in the works for seven years. State regulators say it took that long to negotiate the details with doctors, consumer groups, and HMOs.

The rules take effect next January.

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