Answer the phone, see your patients

For nearly a decade California has been trying to adopt regulations that would require doctors in health maintenance organizations to answer their phones and see patients and give referrals within a certain amount of a time after a request for an appointment. Now those regs are done and are taking effect, although it will still be another year or so before the insurers have to comply. The question is how they will do it. Is just a matter of becoming more efficient and taking more care? Or will they have to contract with more doctors and medical groups so that each one has fewer patients in their networks? And will doctors like that, even if it means they make less money? Or will the HMOs then have to pay them more per patient to make up for the loss of revenue? A simple idea — patients should have a right to be seen quickly — but lots of potential unintended consequences as it rolls out. We will keep an eye on it as it happens. Here is a story on the issue from today”s Sacramento Bee.

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