Medicaid Patients’ Access to Specialists Has Dropped Almost One-Fifth in Five Years



According to Merritt Hawkins’ 2014 survey of physician appointment times in fifteen urban markets (press release here, full report available by request from the firm), the proportion of physicians in five specialties (cardiology, dermatology, orthopedic surgery, ob/gyn, and family practice) accepting Medicaid patients dropped from 55.4 percent in 2009 to 45.7 percent — a drop of almost one-fifth.

This decline under the Obama administration contrasts with some improvement in Medicaid patients’ access during the second term of the Bush administration: Merritt Hawkins’ 2004 survey reported that 49.8 percent of physicians accepted Medicaid patients.

For the first time, Merritt Hawkins asked physicians if they were willing to take on Medicare patients: Only 76 percent said yes. In Minneapolis, only 38.2 percent of physicians were willing to take Medicare patients! (Unfortunately, the survey did not ask physicians if they took private insurance.)

As in 2009, Boston had the longest waiting times to see specialists. Overall, the waiting times were not significantly different than in 2009, with a few exceptions. Wait times in Los Angeles and Houston dropped dramatically, while increasing significantly in Denver.

The table below shows the waiting times for physicians in ten cities surveyed in both 2014 and 2009:

City

Average Wait in Days (2014)

Average Wait in Days (2009)

Boston, MA

45.4

49.6

Philadelphia, PA

20.6

27.0

Los Angeles, CA

12.2

24.2

Houston, TX

14.8

23.4

Minneapolis, MN

19.2

19.8

New York, NY

16.8

19.2

Denver, CO

23.6

15.4

Miami, FL

13.6

15.4

Seattle, WA

16.0

14.2

* * *

For the pivotal alternative to Obamacare, please see the Independent Institute’s widely acclaimed book: Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis, by John C. Goodman.

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