SACRAMENTO – State Assembly member V. Manuel Pérez reports that his bill AB 1771 ensuring that doctor-patient telephone consultations are covered by health insurance passed the State Assembly today on a bipartisan vote of 61-0.
“When doctors are able to take phone calls from patients to answer their questions, it not only improves the patient experience, but it also reduces unneeded office visits,” explained Pérez.
“In medically underserved areas like the Coachella and Imperial Valleys, AB 1771 will help increase access by improving the capacity of physicians to meet the demand for medical care.”
AB 1771 would require health plans and health insurers licensed in the State of California to reimburse contracted physicians for telephone consultation services.
These services include answering questions by phone, monitoring patients with chronic conditions, and calling a patient back to confirm or adjust treatment plans. Currently, most health plans and health insurers do not cover such services.
“Non-urgent medical care delivered by phone has substantial benefits for patients and will improve the capacity of our healthcare system, thereby increasing access to care.
It enables many patients to take more responsibility for their health and offers more convenient treatment,” said the California Medical Association, the bill’s sponsor. “AB 1771 will ensure consumers have access to this service, which reduces unnecessary office visits, costs, and the gap in care experiences between higher and lower income Californians.”
According to the California HealthCare Foundation, the number of primary care physicians actively practicing in California is at the very bottom range of the state’s need, based on estimates by the Council on Graduate Medical Education.
Currently, just 16 of California’s 58 counties have the federal government’s recommended supply of primary care physicians.
Riverside County – the fastest growing county in California – is the only one with a population of one million to have fewer than 100 physicians per 100,000 people.