A physician friend of mine posted a copy of her Medicaid reimbursement on Facebook. Take a look at the charges compared to the actual reimbursement. She is paid between $6.82 and $17.54 for an hour of her time (i.e., on average, she makes less than minimum wage when treating a patient on Medicaid).
The enthusiasm for expanding Medicaid coverage to the previously uninsured seems misplaced. Improved “access” to the health care system via Medicaid programs surely cannot result in lasting coverage. In-network physicians will continue to dwindle as their office overhead exceeds meager reimbursement levels.
In reality, treating Medicaid patients is charity work. The fact that any physicians accept Medicaid is a testament to their generosity of spirit and missionary mindset. Expanding their pro bono workloads is nothing to cheer about. The Affordable Care Act’s “signature accomplishment” is tragically flawed – because offering health insurance to people that physicians cannot afford to accept is not better than being uninsured.
After all, improved access to nothing … offers nothing. Inviting physicians to work for less than minimum wage so that politicians can crow about millions of uninsured Americans now having access to health care, is ridiculous. Medicaid expansion is widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots. The saddest part is that the have-nots just don’t realize it yet.
Val Jones is founder and CEO, Better Health.