Medi-Cal Patients Major Factor In Surge In California Emergency Dept. Visits
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Aired 9/18/13 on KPBS News.
The number of patients visiting California emergency departments has increased. A new report reveals Medi-Cal patients have powered the surge.
SAN DIEGO There's been a surge in visits to California emergency rooms and Medi-Cal patients have played a big role. A new report doesn't bode well for Obamacare, which could add an estimated 2.9 million people to the Medi-Cal program.
UC San Francisco researchers looked at emergency department visits between 2005 and 2010. During that period, visits increased by 13 percent overall. Among people on Medi-Cal, visits increased by 35 percent.
Researchers concluded the surge by Medi-Cal patients could reflect decreasing access to primary care.
San Diego doctor Ted Mazer said physicians have been warning state officials about that for years.
"'I told you so' sounds nasty," Mazer said. "It's not 'I told you so.' It's 'Read the writing on the wall.' It's been there, now here's more evidence of that."
Mazer pointed out a growing number of doctors won't treat Medi-Cal patients because Medi-Cal payment rates don't cover their costs.
The California Medical Association predicts that access to care for people on Medi-Cal could be a major challenge when Obamacare kicks in Jan. 1st.