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Legislation will help address shortage of health care providers
Senator Dr. Ed Hernandez, O.D. (D – West Covina), Chair of the Senate Health Committee, highlighted Wednesday legislation he has introduced to deal with the serious shortage of primary care providers in California, a problem that will only grow worse when up to 7 million more Californians seek health coverage next year under the Affordable Care Act. Senator Hernandez used the press conference, held at Wellpoint Community Clinic in Sacramento, to emphasize the need for more providers, and how we can use our existing workforce of medically trained professionals more effectively to bridge the gap.
“We are working hard at the state level to ensure every Californian has access to affordable, quality health coverage, but what good is a health insurance card if you can’t get into see a health care provider when you need one?” said Hernandez, “We need to make better use of the trained healthcare workforce we already have if we are ever going to meet demand.”
The shortage of physicians is exacerbated by their inequitable distribution throughout the state, with low-income and rural communities having little or no access to primary care physicians. Senator Hernandez, an optometrist himself, introduced the legislation to allow licensed optometrists, nurse practitioners, and pharmacists to expand their practices, as has been done in other states, to bridge the provider gap and alleviate the distribution problem.
“I chose these 3 professions because they have rigorous training standards, are evenly distributed across the state, have a proven record of providing quality care, and are regulated by independent boards that will make certain patient safety is not compromised” continued Hernandez “These health care providers are currently practicing well below their level of training. In the face of so many people seeking care, we cannot continue to underutilize our workforce.”
The press conference was held in advance of a joint informational hearing of the Senate Committee on Health and the Senate Committee on Business, Professions, and Economic Development to discuss short-term and long-term solutions to the provider gap and overall health care accessibility.
“Our M.D.’s do an incredible job providing care in this state, but there simply are not enough. As a legislator, and as a health care provider, I have to be concerned with ensuring people have access to adequate care when they need it.” added Hernandez, “This legislation makes it possible for these providers to work collaboratively with physicians in a team-based approached so that patients get the right level of care at the right time.”