NY Times discovers doctor shortage with Medicaid expansion
I believe the first time I wrote about the expansion of Medicaid exacerbating the short of doctors was in 2009. At that point, a study came out showing the US would have a 40,000 doctor shortfall by 2020. Since not all doctors will accept Medicaid patients (fewer today), the potential shortage could easily be predicted.
Unless you're the NY Times:
Dr. Ted Mazer is one of the few ear, nose and throat specialists in this region who treat low-income people on Medicaid, so many of his patients travel long distances to see him.
But now, as California's Medicaid program is preparing for a major expansion under President Obama's health care law, Dr. Mazer says he cannot accept additional patients under the government insurance program for a simple reason: It does not pay enough.
"It's a bad situation that is likely to be made worse," he said.
His view is shared by many doctors around the country. Medicaid for years has struggled with a shortage of doctors willing to accept its low reimbursement rates and red tape, forcing many patients to wait for care, particularly from specialists like Dr. Mazer.
Yet in just five weeks, millions of additional Americans will be covered by the program, many of them older people with an array of health problems. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that nine million people will gain coverage through Medicaid next year alone. In many of the 26 states expanding the program, the newly eligible have been flocking to sign up.
Community clinics, which typically provide primary but not specialty care, have expanded and hired more medical staff members to meet the anticipated wave of new patients. And managed-care companies are recruiting doctors, nurse practitioners and other professionals into their networks, sometimes offering higher pay if they improve care while keeping costs down. But it is far from clear that the demand can be met, experts say.
In California, with the nation's largest Medicaid population, many doctors say they are already overwhelmed and are unable to take on more low-income patients. Dr. Hector Flores, a primary care doctor in East Los Angeles whose practice has 26,000 patients, more than a third of whom are on Medicaid, said he could accommodate an additional 1,000 Medicaid patients at most.
"There could easily be 10,000 patients looking for us, and we're just not going to be able to serve them," said Dr. Flores, who is also the chairman of the family medicine department at White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Medicaid is close to being totally broken. The stupidity of adding millions of new patients to a program that is failing - that Congress knows is failing - is beyond belief.
And the New York Times is just now getting around to realizing this? Total insularity added to rank partisanship is hardly the way to run a newspaper.