Family Physicians Issue California Health Care Report

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SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The California Academy of Family Physicians today is releasing a report outlining the shortcomings of health care in California, their negative effects on patients, and the need for serious change.

The report, Strong Medicine: Family Medicine’s Fix for California’s Fractured Health Care System, brings together current academic research on the problems facing the most populous state in the nation and outlines solutions proposed by experts nationwide.

“Although California spends more than $170 billion each year on health care, the health status of our residents ranks only 23rd among U.S. states,� said Jeffrey Luther, MD, president of the 7,000-member California Academy of Family Physicians. “This is shameful in our state, the eighth largest economy in the world. Economically we’re larger than most countries – surely we can deliver higher quality health care to the people of California.� 

Current statistics on health care disparities by race, rates of uninsured residents, the frayed ‘safety net’ that leaves people living in poverty without adequate access to health care, escalating health care costs, the promising model of the patient-centered medical home, and other topics underscore the urgent need for health care reform and universal coverage in California.

Expert recommendations include ways to end the primary care physician shortage, to increase health access for every resident, and to improve the health status of every Californian.

Strong Medicine, available at no charge at www.familydocs.org/news-media/monographs.php, is an excellent resource for journalists writing about health care, advocates working to improve health and health care, physicians and administrators working to restructure the health care system, members of the general public concerned about their health care, and anyone else interested in improving how health care is delivered, received and funded.

A few highlights of the report include:

  • Studies that show the importance of making it easier and more affordable for patients to visit primary care physicians—who specialize in preventive and primary care, including the treatment of chronic diseases—in a state where one in five Latino adults over the age of 50 has diabetes.
  • A study of 3,000 U.S. counties showing that a higher ratio of primary care physicians in the health care mix correlates with lower mortality rates and lower health care costs.
  • A description of the effects on employers of providing health care in California, where insurance premiums have increased between 8% and 14% each year since 2000, and the resulting impact on employees’ salaries and benefits.
  • Statistics demonstrating the critical role the Medi-Cal and SCHIP programs play in California, where enrollment in Medi-Cal increased from 5 million to 6.5 million—a 28% increase—over five years.
  • Critical ratios, including ones showing that California has only 46 part-time primary care physicians for every 100,000 Medi-Cal beneficiaries, although federal guidelines recommend 60 to 80 primary care doctors per 100,000 patients.
  • Scenarios for the state’s health care future, including projections showing the number of people over the age of 65 in California is expected to grow from the current 3.9 million to 6.2 million by 2020 as Baby Boomers enter their Medicare years. The federal government has scheduled a series of successive rate cuts in that program, meaning millions of seniors in this state will be unable to access adequate health care.
  • Data showing sound ways the U.S. government could save 30% on Medicare spending while providing better care.

“I became a physician because I want to help people stay well and, when they’re sick, help them heal as quickly as possible,� Dr. Luther explained. “With the health care system crumbling and so many people unable to afford care, meeting these goals is becoming ever more challenging.�

“The California Academy of Family Physicians supports comprehensive health care reform, universal health coverage, a move to the patient-centered medical home as the model for delivering and coordinating care, and an end to the primary care physician shortage,� Dr. Luther said.

Dr. Luther and family physicians statewide are available for media interviews.

About the California Academy of Family Physicians

Since 1948, CAFP has been analyzing and disseminating trends and information to assist California’s family physicians in their practices. With more than 7,000 members, including practicing family physicians, residents in family medicine, and medical students interested in the specialty, CAFP is the largest primary care medical society in California, and the largest chapter of American Academy of Family Physicians. Family physicians are trained to treat an entire family’s medical needs, addressing the whole spectrum of life’s medical challenges. FPs serve a broad base of patients in urban, suburban and rural areas, often in California’s most underserved areas.

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