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Supervisors Seek Changes To System For Reimbursing Doctors For Emergency Care

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

CBS Los Angeles (con't)

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The Board of Supervisors Tuesday called for reforms to the system that reimburses doctors who treat the poor in Los Angeles County.

The county’s Department of Health Services froze payments to those doctors in September due to insufficient funds.

The shortfall was exacerbated by the state pulling its support for the Physicians Services for Indigent Program, which compensates doctors at private hospitals when people cannot pay for being treated.

Looking for a short-term solution, the board last week cut the reimbursement rate from 14 to 12 percent and asked the department to start making payments again.

But Supervisor Don Knabe said more needed to be done, calling the freeze and rate cut an insult.

“The county is the ultimate safety net and our doctors are critical to ensuring that the neediest patients in Los Angeles County receive basic emergency care,” Knabe said. “We cannot continue to freeze payments and reduce rates — it is an insult to the doctors that we all depend on.”

Knabe proposed that the board give Dr. Mitchell Katz, the director of the county’s Department of Health Services, the authority to reset payments as needed without formal board approval.

Knabe also asked that the department implement a series of improvements to the PSIP program recommended by the county’s auditor-controller in March.

The report called for changing the physician enrollment process, reducing delays in claims submission and payment, and generally improving administration of the program.

For example, doctors are currently required to re-enroll in the program every year, though the pool of participating physicians remains largely the same year to year.

“We need to stop putting Band-Aids on a situation that requires real reform,” Knabe said. “We must take the next step forward … so that all residents of L.A. County who must visit an emergency room can expect the availability of services and quality they deserve.”

The board’s vote in support of Knabe’s recommendations was unanimous.

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