Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bad Moon Rising

Right now, under the Physician Services for Indigents Program, LA county reimburses doctors a whopping 27% of estimated fees for the patients' first three days of care at private hospitals. On Tuesday, county supervisors voted to slash that rate to 17%, according to the LA Times.

"Financing at that level to pay doctors for 24/7 lifesaving emergency care is an insult to the doctors and a further threat to the already-fraying hospital emergency care safety net upon which we all depend," states one supervisor who says he voted for the decrease to prevent a complete loss of funding.

These cuts are prompting fears that emergency departments will be forced to close, and that emergency physicians will flee the state, leaving patients with nowhere to turn.

A lot of press has been dedicated to the shortage of primary care physicians lately. With comparatively low reimbursement in the face of staggering medical school costs, fewer med students are entering primary care than ever before (and as a soon-to-be med student facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans, I understand that pressure). A lack of primary care has contributed in large part to our healthcare problems, and forced countless patients to seek treatment in overcrowded emergency departments.

With reimbursement cuts for emergency physicians on the horizon, where will patients have left to turn?

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