Considering we live in one of the richest states in the country, as well as the ninth largest economy in the world, it makes sense to come to the conclusion that every Californian would have access to adequate healthcare.
Sadly, however, this is not the case. While some areas of California receive access to adequate healthcare resources and physicians, others do not, including our own San Joaquin Valley.
It's a disheartening — and dangerous — statistic that the San Joaquin Valley has just 48 primary care physicians per 100,000 people, when the recommended rate is upwards of 80 primary care physicians per 100,000 people, leaving families in our communities woefully under-served.
And our state's physician shortage will only worsen as the Affordable Care Act continues to expand healthcare insurance. This combined with the fact that more than 30 percent of California physicians are over the age of 60, is frightening.
Receiving access to adequate healthcare shouldn't be based on where you live. To me, this is unacceptable. Healthcare equity is important and eliminating disparities is essential in creating and maintaining vibrant, healthy, strong communities.
After all, health isn't just about physical well-being — health encompasses a wide spectrum of factors that can impact an individual's job choices, education level, job security and overall financial well-being.
These disparities must end to ensure our Valley men, women and children receive the care they deserve.
That's why I recently introduced SB 131, legislation that would increase funding for the San Joaquin Valley Program in Medical Education (SJV PRIME), an innovative program operated by the University of California that would expand healthcare resources to serve the nearly four million people in our region by bringing in more medical students interested in serving Valley patients — and more important — keeping these young physicians here after completing their training.
Coauthored by Senator Kathleen Galgiani (D-Manteca), Assembly Leader Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto) and Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Modesto), SB 131 would provide annual funding from the state's General Fund to the UC and expand the program to enroll up to 12 student admissions per class and 48 students annually across the four-year curriculum.
SB 131 promotes healthcare equity and aims to reduce healthcare provider disparities, which is imperative for ensuring our communities stay physically and economically healthy. And it's no secret a healthier community is a more prosperous community — a win-win for everyone.
As always, my door is always open. If you have thoughts or questions you wish to share, please call my Merced office at 726-5495 or Ceres office at 581-9827.