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California Doctors Feeling Sick About New State Budget

Photo by Alex Proimos / Flickr

A doctor holds a stethoscope, March 25, 2012.

Doctors say they are getting a raw deal in the new state budget crafted by California lawmakers.

When the California Medical Association lent its support to Prop. 56 last year, they expected to get something in return if it passed: a Medi-Cal pay raise.

Things have not turned out as the CMA expected.

Prop. 56 passed alright, and the state expects to collect about $1 billion a year in new tobacco tax revenue.

But in the new budget deal crafted by California lawmakers, doctors could get as little as one-third of that money. Doctors say that will not go very far to raise Medi-Cal reimbursement rates.

Dr. Ted Mazer, CMA president-elect, and an ear, nose, and throat specialist in San Diego, said that paltry pay raise does not cut it.

“A physician really can’t afford to take more than maybe ten percent of their practice, if that, in Medi-Cal patients, because every time you see a patient you’re losing money," Mazer explained.

Mazer said Medi-Cal currently pays only $16 - $24 for an office visit. He pointed out that is only a fraction of what Medicare or private insurance pays.

As a result, many doctors will not treat new Medi-Cal patients. That is a problem, especially considering the state expanded Medi-Cal eligibility through the Affordable Care Act.

Nearly one in three Californians now have Medi-Cal insurance.

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