Physicians for a Healthy California (PHC) announced unprecedented demand for CalHealthCares, a program aimed at addressing the lack of access to care for Medi-Cal patients.
For the most recent application deadline that just closed on March 17, the bucket of funds that providers could apply for was $63 million. However, more than $200 million was requested or applied for by providers – more than three times what was available.
“Last week’s deadline to apply for these programs was met with unprecedented demand,” said Lupe Alonzo-Diaz, PHC president and CEO. “The good news is that physicians in these programs will help to fill the physician shortage that much of California is experiencing and the Inland Empire and Central Valley feel most acutely which will increase access to care. The bad news is there is not sufficient funding to provide the opportunity to many qualified providers.”
PHC administers two critical programs funded by Prop. 56 tobacco tax funds that are working improve access to care in California:
CalHealthCares provides loan repayments on educational debt for physicians and dentists in exchange for a five-year commitment to provide care to Medi-Cal patients. March 17 marks the deadline for the fifth round of CalHealthCare awards. PHC will announce details of this application cycle, which again demonstrates the crushing amount of student loan debt being carried by physicians and dentists – preventing them from following their passion to care for the underserved.
CalMedForce, administered by PHC in partnership with University of California, increases the number of available residency slots in California’s underserved communities. A single primary-care resident can conduct approximately 600 patient visits per year, so each slot is vitally important to communities with physician shortages.
In the San Joaquin Valley and the Inland Empire -- the two regions of the state with the lowest physician-to-population ratios – CalMedForce has funded 252 resident positions and 284 resident positions, respectively.
Graduate medical education administrators, medical school faculty, and health care providers from the Central Valley and the Inland Empire had this to say about the programs:
“The Inland Empire already suffers from a shortage of health care providers, but the recent growth in population is driving that demand up even further, particularly for patients relying on Medi-Cal. The CalMedForce funding helps us meet that demand by ensuring we have enough trained physicians who are able to hone their skills right here in the community.”
-Dr. Kevin Shannon, Chief Academic Officer at Social Action Community (SAC) Health System in San Bernardino County
“The San Joaquin Valley has some of the lowest physician per population ratios in the state, and it’s projected to only get worse. CalMedForce is crucial in addressing the physician shortage, because we know that physicians who complete their residencies in California more often than not stay in California.”
-Dr. Olga Meave, CEO of Clinica Sierra Vista and the Rio Bravo Family Medicine Residency Program in Kern County
“The combination of high student loan debt and low Medi-Cal reimbursement rates are too often barriers for graduating medical students who want to treat Medi-Cal beneficiaries. The CalHealthCares program has allowed me to serve Medi-Cal patients – who often have the most complex and urgent health needs – in my hometown community. By making it possible for more physicians to treat this growing population, we can alleviate many of the associated problems with Medi-Cal, such as long wait times, lack of access, and a lack of access to specialists.”
-Dr. Ninos Adams, psychiatry specialist and CalHealthCares recipient