[to top of second column]
Enforcement investigations will be based on annual self-reporting from HMOs and consumer complaints to the Department of Managed Health Care. The regulator will be able to demand corrections and issue fines if there is noncompliance.
Dr. Carla Kakutani said the new regulation reflects the speedy care she and colleagues already provide in her multi-specialty group based in Winters, Calif. She leaves open several hours a day for patients with urgent needs.
Where the regulation could make real change is its "onus on the health plans" to make better offers to doctors they want to contract with, Kakutani said. When seeking to broaden their networks, health plans may have to offer more lucrative packages to doctors.
"Something we'd like to see (is) health plans that have reasonable contracts that allows physicians to have" a reasonable number of patients assigned to them for better pay, she said.
Problems in access have been acute in primary care, where doctor shortages have increased wait times.
Dr. Lori J. Heim, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, says California's mandate could pose real challenges to primary care if the national health care reform policy doesn't pass.
The plan addresses a current shortage of doctors in primary care by luring more medical students to the field with improved loan repayment, an increase to the number of residency slots, and financial incentives for practicing physicians.
New doctors rarely go into family practice because, according to the Council on Graduate Medical Education, the financial difference between a career in primary care and specialty care can be $3.5 million over a lifetime.
According to a survey by Heim's organization, which represents 94,000 American doctors, the average workweek for a primary physician is 52 hours long.
"Most physicians are already seeing as many patients as they're comfortable seeing in a day," Heim said.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
< Recent articles
Back to top
News | Sports | Business | Rural Review | Teaching & Learning | Home and Family | Tourism | Obituaries
Law & Courts |
Spiritual Life |
Health & Fitness |
Calendar | Letters to the Editor