Denham, Valadao lead efforts to make medical care more accessible for Medicaid beneficiaries

Republican U.S. Reps. Jeff Denham and David Valadao of California teamed up on Tuesday to introduce a bill that would tackle doctor shortages by creating a demonstration project to explore recruitment and Medicaid reimbursement models for physicians serving low-income individuals.

“While the American Health Care Act addresses the issue of rising premiums to stabilize our nation’s health care system, we must also address the core issues that prevent patients from being able to find and keep a doctor who will accept their coverage,” Denham said. “California’s low Medicaid reimbursement rates only exacerbate the Central Valley’s existing doctor shortage.”

More than 12 million Californians are enrolled in Medi-Cal, which is California’s version of Medicaid, but physicians are disincentivized to serve those patients because the state ranks 48th in Medicaid reimbursement rates.

Denham and Valadao’s health care bill, the Assessing Critical Care Efforts to Strengthen Services Act (ACCESS) Act, H.R. 2779, drew support from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).

Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act has strained the system, McCarthy said, and too many Californians have been left without access to quality health care as a result.

“Jeff and David have identified a solution to encourage more doctors to practice in the Central Valley communities most dependent on Medicaid,” McCarthy said. “Following the House passage of the American Health Care Act we continue to put forward ideas to make our health care work for all Americans.”

Under the legislation, the demonstration project would be established through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. The results of the project could be used to attract doctors to work in counties with a high share of Medicaid enrollees.

“Here in the Valley, we know all too well that possession of an insurance card does not equate to health care services and medical treatment,” Valadao said. “By correcting California’s reimbursement method, we can encourage medical professionals to not only set up their practices in the Valley, but to provide medical services to all patients, including those who rely on the Medicaid program.”