ER doctors sue California over rates

Ashanti Oard and her sick daughter waited their turn when they were in the ER.

"She can't sleep. She's itching and it hurts. She scratches herself until she gets welts on her legs," said Ashanti Oard.

Like many patients in the ER, Ashanti relies on Medi-Cal for healthcare. She thinks it's part of the reason she is sometimes overlooked.

"I have to. I have no other choice. I can't just run back there and make them see her. We have to just sit here and wait," said Oard.

Outside, a group of ER doctors want to improve conditions, too. They say the time to act for struggling emergency rooms is now.

"It is frustrating as a physician when you have patients that need assistance and you don't have the means to help them," said ER physician, Dr. Ricky Bush.

A statewide coalition of physicians filed a class action lawsuit against the State Department of Health Care Services. They're asking for timely and fair payment for services given to Medi-Cal patients, and they're demanding better funding.

"I'm not a politician or an economist, but I am a healthcare provider who took an oath to help those who need care. I am here to tell you as the 'canary in the coal mine,' that we are in a crisis," said ER physician, Dr. Irv Edwards.

A recent study finds that California ranks last in terms of payment for its Medi-Cal beneficiaries. Now that make a big impact to a hospital like Mission Community where 35 percent of its patients are on Medi-Cal and 20 percent are uninsured.

"You cannot require people to provide services and reimburse them for half the cost of what it takes," said Raymond Boucher, a lawyer for the doctors.

When Ashanti's daughter finally got in she felt empathy for the overworked staff.

"That is the reason for the wait. That is why you have to patient with them. They're not even getting paid and they are low staff," said Oard.

Eyewitness News made several attempts to get a response from the the attorney general's office about the lawsuit, but they declined to comment.



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