July 25, 2013
Missing the Point on Medicaid
Arguing that Medicaid shouldn’t be expanded because not all doctors in Virginia are accepting new Medicaid patients is like seeing a nearly full glass and calling it empty. The fact is most doctors are taking new Medicaid patients, giving those patients access to the routine care they need without going to the ER or facing crippling medical debt.
While it’s true some doctors aren’t accepting new Medicaid patients, the real number is less than the often quoted 24 percent who are not. That’s because the survey used to come up with the estimate didn’t include doctors whose offices or clinics are associated with hospitals and community health centers, who are key providers of care for Medicaid patients. If you include these providers, the picture of access for Medicaid patients improves and clearly shows that Medicaid coverage ensures people can get the care they need.
And, even if 24 percent was the right number for doctors not accepting new Medicaid patients, that would mean 76 percent of doctors are. That’s just slightly lower than the percentage accepting new patients with Medicare or private insurance. Nationally, 83 percent of physicians are accepting new Medicare patients and 82 percent are accepting new patients with private insurance.
Furthermore, to improve access for people with Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act gives doctors a strong, new incentive to accept new Medicaid patients right now. By increasing Medicaid reimbursement rates for primary care physicians to the same levels as Medicare in 2013 and 2014, people with Medicaid should have the same access as people with other types of insurance.
At the end of the day, it’s a false generalization to conclude that the whole system is broken just because some doctors aren’t accepting new patients, as some have claimed. It’s like saying 76 cents is worthless because it isn’t a full dollar.
–Massey Whorley, Senior Policy Analyst