Many Colorado Doctors Refuse New Medicaid Patients

A new study says about a third of office-based doctors in Colorado aren’t taking any new Medicaid patients. That’s in line with the national average, but more than in most neighboring states. CPR Health Reporter Eric Whitney explains.

Here is a transcript of Eric's story.

Medicaid is the government program that pays for healthcare for the poor, and for many disabled and elderly people. Doctors aren’t required to accept Medicaid patients, but most physicians here see at least a few.

The journal Health Affairs says that in Colorado and nationwide, about one-third of office-based doctors are refusing to take any new Medicaid patients.

Keeler: There’s two basic reasons.

Dr. Brent Keeler is president of the state’s biggest physicians group, the Colorado Medical Society. He says the first reason is that Medicaid pays so poorly

Keeler: Significantly below what the physician needs to keep the doors open and the lights on. And the other reason is the tremendous, overwhelming administrative burden that Medicaid imposes on physicians.

Keeler says higher percentages of doctors in neighboring states may take new Medicaid patients because there are fewer people on Medicaid in those areas, meaning doctors aren’t bearing as much of a burden. Nearly 100% of all Wyoming doctors take new Medicaid patients, the nation’s highest rate, compared to a low of 40% in New Jersey.

The federal health care law offers primary care doctors higher Medicaid payments, but only for two years. Dr. Keeler says what doctors want most from government health plans is predictability.

[Photo: Salud Family Health]