In a new report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that only 69 percent of doctors nationally would accept new Medicaid patients — though those numbers vary nationwide. For example, 40 percent of New Jersey doctors would take new Medicaid patients, compared to 99 percent in Wyoming, largely because of the varying reimbursement rates for Medicaid doctors. New Jersey has the lowest reimbursement rate, while Wyoming has the highest.
The study’s author Sandra Decker, an economist with the CDC, points out that this correlation applies to the overall trend for the places where doctors are more likely to accept more Medicaid patients:
And Decker notes that having more doctors accept new patients under Medicaid “may increase the number of times that a Medicaid patient sees a physician and decrease reliance on hospitals for outpatient care.”
But with one-third of doctors reporting that they will not take new Medicaid patients, access to doctors is a growing problem ahead of the full implementation of Obamacare. When the health care reform law is fully in effect by 2014, millions of people will be added to the health care program under the Medicaid expansion. States can choose to opt out of the expansion, and some Republican state officials have indicated that they will do so, despite the billions of dollars the federal government is offering to help pay for the additional patients and to expand community health centers.
The Affordable Care Act helps with this issue by increasing the reimbursement rate for primary care doctors in 2013 and 2014 who treat Medicaid patients to boost doctor participation. But the higher amount — a 30 percent increase nationally and 50 percent in New Jersey — is only temporary, although Congress likely will be pressured to continue it.