Most in Need Have Least Access to Doctors in California

Where you live in California may determine how easy it is for you to see a doctor.

Those most in need of health care have the least access, according to a report released Wednesday by the California HealthCare Foundation.

In the Bay Area, for example, there were 86 primary-care physicians and 175 specialists per 100,000 people in 2011. But the San Joaquin Valley, an area with far more poor, uninsured residents, had just 48 primary-care doctors and 80 specialists for the same number of people.

The Bay Area ratios were above levels recommended by the Council on Graduate Medical Education, while the San Joaquin Valley ratios fell below. The council recommends having 60 to 80 primary-care physicians and 85 to 105 specialists per 100,000 people.

Doctor-to-patient ratios were also low overall in the Inland Empire, according to the report. In California’s northernmost counties, the Central Coast, Los Angeles County and the San Diego Area the number of primary-care doctors barely met the recommended level.

These areas could experience doctor shortages as demand rises this year due to the Affordable Care Act. In some California counties, patients have already reported having trouble accessing specialists or primary-care providers.

Here are some other key findings from the report, which compiled data from 2011-13, depending on the source:

  • Latino doctors were underrepresented among physicians. While Latinos made up 38 percent of the state’s population, they accounted for only 4 percent of doctors.
  • More than three-quarters of California physicians attended medical school in other states or in foreign countries.
  • Doctors were less likely to serve Medi-Cal, Medicare and uninsured patients than privately insured patients.
  • About 20 percent of all physicians devoted less than 20 hours a week to patient care.
  •  About 32 percent of doctors were over the age of 60, the second highest percentage in the nation.
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