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California physicians outline bold health care agenda to improve patient affordability, access and quality

The California Medical Association (CMA) recently convened the organization’s 147th annual House of Delegates (HOD) meeting in Sacramento.

Over 500 California physicians debated and outlined a bold agenda to increase health care affordability, improve health care delivery, create efficiencies throughout the health care system, and improve health outcomes, which includes addressing social determinants of health and expanding telehealth services.

“Physicians serve at the center of health care delivery, providing a unique expertise to ensure our patients are receiving affordable, timely and quality care,” said CMA President David H. Aizuss, M.D. “Health care costs continue to grow, with patients paying more and getting less – except for more runarounds, fine print and larger medical bills. This is our current reality and the battle we must fight, because it’s hurting our patients’ ability to access needed care, treatment and medications.”

Nationwide, prescription drugs prices have increased 25 percent since 2012 (Health Care Cost Institute). Health insurance deductibles have more than doubled since 2008, and half of all workers now have a deductible of at least $1,000 for an individual, up from 22 percent in 2009 (Kaiser Family Foundation). Employer-sponsored insurance premiums have risen from $6,000 in 1999 to more than $18,000 in 2016, and out-of-pocket costs have increased by more than 53 percent between 2006 and 2016 (Economic Policy Institute).

Furthermore, the average American spent $10,345 on health care in 2016, yet roughly 41 percent of Americans say they can’t pay a $400 emergency expense without borrowing or selling something (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Federal Reserve). Thirty-three percent of Americans with health insurance said they or a family member had problems affording care in the last year (Kaiser Family Foundation survey).

“No family should have to forego medical care to pay household bills or take on debt, yet that is exactly the situation more Californians are facing,” said Dr. Aizuss. “If health care isn’t affordable, then it isn’t accessible, and the California health care system must do better for our patients.”

California physicians identified four critical issues that California must focus on to make health care affordable while improving quality and access:

•    Improve patient access and quality of care by reforming health care delivery and utilization by making payment and delivery more efficient, as well as expand telehealth.
•    Expand patient choice and affordability by increasing competition throughout health care with market-based solutions.
•    Maximize physicians’ time spent with patients by reducing administrative burdens and eliminating duplicative tasks that add unnecessary costs without improving health outcomes.
•    Ensure patients have access to necessary treatment and medications by addressing pharmaceutical costs.

“At the end of the day, success must be defined by a patient’s ability to access quality care in an affordable and timely manner,” said Dr. Aizuss. “CMA remains committed to working with stakeholders and policymakers to develop targeted, pragmatic and workable solutions that reduce health care costs for our patients.”

More details, including proposed state and federal legislation and regulations, will be announced in the coming months.

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