Press release from Assemblymember Jim Wood’s office:
Today two bills aimed at bringing improving healthcare in rural California, were passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee and are now one step away from being approved by the legislature.
AB 2024 would provide a special exemption to north coast hospitals allowing them to recruit and directly hire physicians and specialists. That practice is currently banned due to fears that hospital management will inappropriately influence medical decisions if doctors are employed directly by the hospital. This means that doctors have to open and manage their own practice and contract independently to work at hospitals. Unfortunately that model makes it nearly impossible to recruit doctors to rural communities and in part has led to the desperate shortage of doctors on the North Coast. By allowing hospitals to directly recruit and hire doctors, the doctors can earn a guaranteed salary, and not have to worry about the extra burdens of operating an independent practice.
Assemblyman Wood said, “Nearly the entire North Coast is a doctor desert, we have to find ways to recruit and retain more healthcare providers in our rural communities. AB 2024 gives us a fighting chance, recent studies show that over 90% of new doctors would rather be employed than open their own practice, giving our local hospitals this leg up will be a really big deal.”
AB 1863 is aimed at easing access to mental health care, especially in communities that have to travel long distances to meet with their doctors. The bill would allow patients who are on MediCal to visit both their primary care doctor, and a marriage and family therapist, in the same day. Under current law patients are only allowed to bill MediCal for one visit per day. If their doctor recommends they see a mental health provider they have to go home and come back for a visit another day.
“This law makes no sense, people are having to take several days of vacation or sick leave from work just to be able to take care of themselves,” said Wood. “The reality is there is no rationale for this limitation, the only argument is that it will work, which means more people will get mental health care, and bill MediCal.”
Both bills now head for a vote in front of the full Senate before moving to the Governor’s desk for signature and implementation.