US

Feds: Half Of Medicaid Doctors Listed Aren’t Accepting Patients

Turns out finding a doctor who accepts Medicaid is almost twice as difficult as many people expected.

Half the doctors listed by federal investigators are not providing appointments to Medicaid enrollees, an investigation by the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services has found.

States with Medicaid-managed care providers offer listings of the dwindling number of health care providers that accept patients with Medicaid coverage, which has the lowest provider reimbursement rate of any federal program, let alone private insurance. (RELATED: Less Than Half Of Doctors In Largest Cities Accepting Medicaid) 

“Slightly more than half of providers could not offer appointments to enrollees,” the report concludes. “Notably, 35 percent could not be found at the location listed by the plan, and another 8 percent were at the location but said that they were not participating in the plan.” Another eight percent of the providers wouldn’t accept new patients.

But finding a doctor is just one step in seeking health care as a Medicaid patient. First, people must be deemed eligible for Medicaid and accepted into the program by their state. Along with Obamacare’s large expansion of Medicaid in some states came Medicaid backlogs reaching into the hundreds of thousands — some people have been forced to wait six months or more to find out if they’re eligible for the program. Several states are facing lawsuits from residents who have been forced to wait for months.

Then there’s actually finding a doctor — made doubly difficult by a falling number of providers who accept Medicaid and by apparently inaccurate physician lists, according to the IG report. The number of physicians who accept Medicaid patients may be even lower than expected: some of the physicians named by Medicaid managed care plans just weren’t accepting Medicaid patients at all, even though they’d been counted.

After that, there’s the wait time for appointments. According to the report, the median wait time for providers that were accepting patients was just two weeks. But it’s significantly more for many patients.

“Over a quarter [of providers] had wait times of more than 1 month, and 10 percent had wait times longer than 2 months,” the investigation found. Primary care providers were less likely to have appointments available, but specialists had longer wait times — neither particularly heartening results.

Medicaid programs have grown drastically in the past several years. The Medicaid expansion, courtesy of Obamacare, added just under 9 million people to the rolls nationwide, according to HHS. The administration is presenting this as a triumph — but the quality of care in the program is apparently lacking as well.

Follow Sarah on Twitter