by Amy Crocker

While national health care faced a set back this week with the loss of the 60th Democratic senate seat, California took a step forward. A new state law sets limits on the length of time a patient must wait to see a doctor. California is the first state to set this type of standard. Supporters of the law hope this will reduce crowds in the emergency room, if patients are treated in a more timely manner. HMOs have until Jan. 17, 2011 to comply with the new rules.

The Chronicle provides this breakdown of the new maximum wait times:

  • 10 business days for non-urgent primary care and mental health appointments.
  • 15 business days for non-urgent appointments with a specialist and for lab tests, X-ray and other ancillary services.
  • 96 hours for urgent-care appointments that require special authorization.
  • 48 hours for urgent-care appointments with no authorization.
  • 24-hour telephone screening or triage, seven days a week.
  • 30-minute wait times for telephone triage.
  • 10-minute wait times to speak with the HMO's customer service representative.