Monterey, CA : Senior Doctors Hard To Find, Particularly With Medi-Cal Recipientsby Richard Kuehn on 07/08/11
The problem seniors face finding a good Doctor was highlighted on the front page of USA Today July 6, in an article entitled, "Medicaid payments go under the knife." The story talked about a dozen states starting a new budget year by reducing payments to Doctors, hospitals and health care professionals that treat the poor. Health care experts warn that this could add to a shortage of physicians and other providers participating in Medicaid. "Further depressing payment rates can only worsen the situation," Sarah Rosenbaum, chairwoman of the health policy department at George Washington University told the paper. California has one of the lowest Medi-Cal reimbursement rates in the entire nation so we have been dealing with this for some time. Legislators enacted another 10% cut in payments to Medi-Cal service providers which was to go into effect in March of this year, although it is facing legal challenges and has not been implemented. If President Obama's health care reform law goes into effect (it faces a number of legal challenges and is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court), the problem would be somewhat mitigated because the law raises the rates for primary care Doctors in 2013 and 2014 to match rates paid by Medicare. As I know from personal experience when looking for Doctors to treat my grandmother, sometimes those rates aren't high enough to entice a physician to take on a new patient with Medicare. Although they pay more than Medi-Cal, there are generally much lower reimbursement rates than from private insurance companies. She was lucky enough to have supplemental Medicare insurance, but even with that we often had to wait months to try and get in and see a new Doctor. Profit margins are shrinking for Doctors and if reimbursement rates don't keep up with cost increases for Doctors, more will likely shun seniors on Medicare and/or Medi-Cal.