While the Medicaid expansion stalls in Florida, New Jersey shows the shortcomings of the Medicaid expansion even when it does take effect. According to NJ.com, New Jersey has the country’s lowest percentage of doctors willing to take new Medicaid patients, with only 38.7 percent saying they took on a new Medicaid patient in 2013, according to a new study. A 2011–12 survey also had New Jersey ranked dead last, as only “46 percent of primary care doctors said they had planned to take on new Medicaid patients.” More:
New Jersey’s Medicaid physician reimbursement rates — among the lowest in the country despite the state’s high cost of living — have long suppressed doctor participation in the program known as NJ FamilyCare.
But the decline from 46 percent to 38 percent participation rate in New Jersey may surprise lawmakers and policy makers, who anticipated President Obama’s health care law would entice more doctor interest. Obamacare raised Medicaid reimbursement rates in 2013 and 2014 to match Medicare rates.
The article notes that the rate increases mandated by the ACA were delayed, so we don’t yet have good data on whether they enticed more New Jersey doctors to open their doors to Medicaid patients. But this story nevertheless highlights the real difference between qualifying for the Medicaid program and being able to see a doctor. According to NJ.com, the national average for doctors who accepted new Medicaid patients in 2013 is 69 percent. That’s far higher than 38.7, but still could leave people who qualify for Medicaid out in the cold.
It’s always important to keep that number in mind when you hear about the Medicaid expansion. And the problem may only get worse, as the 2013 and 2014 increases in rates likely won’t be extended indefinitely. Until the financial incentives for doctors somehow change, there will always be those who are newly qualified for Medicaid but can’t actually get in to see a doctor.