California to Regulate Doctor Wait Times

Ok, here's an idea, have government mandate how long it takes for you to see a doctor. Don't believe it? Well, California, in their infinite wisdom, is doing just that. I read this story and it just made my skin crawl. It is from The Los Angeles Times and it is entitled, "California Limits HMO Wait Times."

The regulations by the California Department of Managed Health Care, in the works for much of the last decade, will require that patients be treated by HMO doctors within 10 business days of requesting an appointment, and by specialists within 15. Patients seeking urgent care that does not require prior authorization must be seen within 48 hours.

Telephone calls to doctors' offices will have to be returned within 30 minutes, and physicians or other health professionals will have to be available 24 hours a day. California says it is the first state to set time standards for HMOs, which serve nearly 21 million of its residents.

Now, the only people who think this is a good idea are politicians. I can just hear the meetings in the back rooms at the state house - "Well really stick it to those doctors with this one." Here's the simple question - Why does it take so long to see the doctor? The answer is simple - Government and Red Tape. The government created most of this mess - really.

Now, I don't practice in California, but I know where I live, there is form after form after form to be completed associated with patient care. Much of it is trying to keep with government regulations from the state capitol and from Washington. Plus, if anyone utters the words "Pre-Authorization" - they know how much time this takes from an office staff point of view. This useless time on the phone or on a computer could be better spent - Uh, taking care of patients.

So, here is a little tip to my friends at state legislative houses across the country, and in Washington. The best way to improve wait times and overall patient care, is not to increase government regulation, but to DE-REGULATE government control over health care. Not to mention, with this additional layer of government oversight, who is going to pay for this additional oversight with a bankrupt California budget? Did anyone ask that question? Probably not....