A huge pay raise promised under the Affordable Care Act for primary care doctors who treat the nation’s poor covered by Medicaid health insurance is nearly three months behind schedule and may take another three months before it kicks in, state Medicaid directors say.
Under the health law, a primary care doctor – a family physician, a pediatrician or an internist – who treats a Medicaid patient will see their reimbursement rise to the level of the Medicare health insurance program for the elderly for scores of primary care services. Doctors do have to apply to their state Medicaid programs and meet certain criteria in part proving that they have historically treated certain numbers of Medicaid patients.
Though the pay increase will vary because Medicaid rates differ from state to state, the average pay increase will be about 73 percent given Medicare last year paid on average 66 percent of what Medicare pays for certain primary care services, according to a Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation study. Doctors in some states could see payment increases of 100 percent or more.
The idea behind the pay increase, which is funded by federal dollars for two years, is to get more doctors to accept Medicaid patients and prevent other physicians from dropping out of a government program that hasn’t been well funded.
Amid a primary care doctor shortage, eligible patients will need all of the doctors they can get given the health law expands Medicaid coverage to millions more Americans effective Jan. 1, 2014 for participating states.
The continued financial unknown is one of the biggest issues facing medicine today. The delay in the implementation of the primary care pay raise for those treating the nation’s poor can only exasperate and delay the increase in the required pool of primary care physicians we know the USA will need in the not too distant future.
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