California's uninsured population -- estimated at more than 6.5 million people, or about one in five residents -- is experiencing "widespread problems" obtaining specialty care, according to a study commissioned by the California Healthcare Foundation. The study, by Mathematica Policy Research, was based on a survey of the state's 101 federally qualified healthcare centers between November 2002 and April 2003; a follow-up survey of 64 California hospitals to which the centers commonly referred uninsured patients for specialty care; and subsequent interviews with patients, providers and others in four communities. Overall, 85% of the healthcare centers said their patients "often" or "almost always" had trouble obtaining specialty care. Public hospitals made up about half of the hospitals mentioned as major specialty referral destinations, and teaching hospitals represented 25%. Only 16% of the health centers said they made specialty referrals to physician practices. Among other potential solutions, the report recommended tax breaks and educational-loan repayment programs to induce specialty physicians to see more uninsured patients. -- by Modern Physician/MP Stat
Specialty care hard to find for Calif. uninsured
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