Emergency doctors sue California over Medi-Cal rates | SierraSun.com

Emergency doctors sue California over Medi-Cal rates

LOS ANGELES ” A coalition of emergency doctors took the state to court Tuesday over low reimbursement rates for Medi-Cal patients, but the local hospital system says Medi-Cal is less important than other hospitals.

In a lawsuit filed against the California Department of Health Care Services, doctors said Medi-Cal payments have remained low during the past 17 years while the cost of providing care has nearly doubled.

The physicians also complained that the number of uninsured and underinsured patients has become untenable due to the closure of 85 hospitals and 55 emergency rooms in the past decade.

In 2007 alone, they provided $100 million in unpaid services, according to the lawsuit.

“The entire emergency room system in the state of California is on its last breath,” said Raymond Boucher, a lawyer for the doctors. “If somebody doesn’t immediately come in and provide a lifeline to these emergency rooms, too many of them will continue to close.”

The Department of Health Care Services declined comment on the suit, saying it was under review.

Locally, this issue had few impacts to the Tahoe Forest Health System, the hospital reports.

“We have a low number of Medi-Cal patients,” said Tahoe Forest Health System spokesperson Paige Neubeker, who noted that hospital revenue from Medi-Cal is just 10 percent, and very little Medi-Cal patients check into the emergency room.

Under state law, emergency care must be provided to all patients regardless of ability to pay. Doctors have long complained that the state has required them to provide care without providing necessary financial support.

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