Doctors treating Medicaid patients may get a pay raise next year under a new rule proposed this week, a move which could make it easier for many with disabilities to access medical care.
Traditionally, payments to physicians for treating individuals covered by the government insurer have been significantly lower than fees paid by private insurance companies. As a result, many doctors don’t accept Medicaid — which covers those who are poor or have disabilities — and enrollees in the program often report difficulties in finding doctors and getting appointments.
So bad is the problem that a study published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine found that publicly-insured children are turned away by doctors two-thirds of the time. What’s more, when such kids were able to get an appointment, they had to wait more than twice as long as children covered by private insurance.
That could change under a new regulation put forth by the Obama administration this week. Federal officials are proposing a two-year pay raise for primary care doctors that would put Medicaid payments in 2013 and 2014 in line with rates that physicians receive for treating people covered by Medicare, the federal health program for seniors.
“Today’s action will help encourage primary care physicians to continue and expand their efforts to provide checkups, preventive screenings, vaccines and other care to Medicaid beneficiaries,” said Marilyn Tavenner, acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
The change was first outlined in the 2010 health care reform law, but must be implemented through regulation.