Scheduled Steep Medicaid Cuts Put Access to Care at Risk

If the current payment parity program is allowed to expire at the end of the year, doctors will be forced to limit the number of new Medicaid patients they can afford to take on, according to 4 medical associations.

Four medical associations urged Congress to extend the payment parity for primary care and immunization services under Medicaid. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the America Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the American College of Physicians (ACP), and the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), if this policy runs out at the end of 2014, doctors will be forced to limit the number of new Medicaid patients they can afford to take on.

The current law increases Medicaid payments for primary care and immunization services to Medicare levels, and the 4 organizations are calling for the law to be extended another 2 years.

“Without congressional action to extend Medicaid parity with Medicare, primary care physicians will see an abrupt cut to Medicaid payments for the care they provide to low-income families,” AAFP President Robert Wergin, MD, FAAFP, said in a statement. “This could wipe out the progress of ensuring that low-income Americans have access to primary medical care.”

Dr Wergin added that research has shown Medicaid beneficiaries who cannot find a physician accepting new Medicaid patients essentially face the same access issues as uninsured individuals. As a result, they are less likely to face a usual source of care.

A survey from ACP found that 46% of members who had enrolled in the pay parity program would have to accept fewer Medicaid patients in 2015 or drop out of Medicaid entirely if the program was not renewed. According to ACP, if the pay parity program expires at the end of this year, primary care physicians face a pay cut of 41 cents to the dollar for services such as office visits for the treatment of chronic diseases.

“The number of eligible Medicaid beneficiaries, among the most vulnerable patient populations, continues to increase throughout the country,” AOA President Robert S. Juhasz, DO, said. “Ensuring access to care from physicians to treat the needs of these patients is vital to improving the public health of our citizens, and we believe Congress should extend this important payment parity policy to that end.”