National guidelines indicate that the county is short "no less than 131 providers," said
The situation is dire, Rivera said.
"To me, this about the long-term future of health care in our community," he said.
Also part of the problem is that the average age of doctors in the county -- 65 -- is higher than in other places, according to Rivera. While new doctors are initially attracted to the area because of several positive attributes, he said, they don't wind up staying after they realize the financial difficulty of practicing in Doña Ana County. Many new doctors leave medical school with debt ranging from
Several factors are to blame for the situation. For starters, a high percentage of patients locally -- more than 40 percent -- have
Secondly, Rivera said, the county is at a disadvantage compared to northern
Additionally, Rivera highlighted several state laws that he said aren't being followed by insurers in all instances, which leads to lower payment to doctors. For example, he said, a statute requires insurers to pay gross receipts tax on claims it pays to physicians, but that's not always done.
"To me, there's a regulation on the books that isn't being followed" by MCOs, Rivera told city councilors.
Another state law provision imposes deadlines on insurers to credential new doctors as acceptable providers -- which allows the doctor to bill the insurance company for care provided. But MCOs at times drag their feet on such approvals, Rivera said.
Several city councilors expressed support for the city taking steps to counter the physician shortage. City Councilor
"And I would like to see this put at the top of the list," he said.
Interim City Manager
Doña Ana County Commissioner
Two residents, one of whom is a registered nurse, told councilors they moved to
Eakman asked that the city compile what's known as a "loss run" report, which shows the reimbursement paid to providers for medical claims filed by city government employees. Dollahon said city staff will compile that.
Rivera said he fields many requests from doctors who are looking to join the hospital because their own clinics are struggling.
"Every day that goes by, folks are running for cover, looking for how to save their practices," he said.
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