Fewer Physicians Accepting New Medicaid Beneficiaries
The growing number of physicians who do not accept new Medicaid beneficiaries because of costs "is a large, little-discussed hurdle to some ambitious efforts to broaden health care coverage," the Wall Street Journal reports.
According to the Journal, many state Medicaid programs, "straining under surging costs, are balancing their budgets by freezing or reducing payments to doctors," resulting in physicians -- particularly specialists -- dropping out of the program, according to the Journal.
A 2006 report by the Center for Studying Health System Change showed that almost half of all physicians polled said they had stopped accepting or were limiting the number of new Medicaid beneficiaries they will see.
However, expanding coverage through Medicaid or private Medicaid HMOs is a "linchpin" in universal health coverage plans in several states, including Massachusetts and California, as well as in campaign platforms of some 2008 presidential candidates.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has proposed a universal coverage initiative that would place surcharges of 2% on physician fees and 4% on hospital revenue. The money would be used to increase Medicaid payments to encourage providers to treat more beneficiaries.
In addition, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) has proposed extending Medicaid coverage to 500,000 uninsured state residents.
The Journal reports that policymakers hope the proposal will include increasing Medicaid payment rates to levels similar to Medicare, which are about two-thirds higher. However, many people are concerned that Granholm's plan to enroll more residents in the program "will give doctors even less reason to accept" Medicaid beneficiaries, according to the Journal (Fuhrmans, Wall Street Journal, 7/19).