Fewer specialists willing to treat Medicaid patients, raising questions for expansion

The number of specialist physicians who are willing to treat patients enrolled in Medicaid is shrinking perilously and could complicate the program's planned expansion under federal healthcare reform, reports the New York Times.

Specialists willing to treat patients with disorders such as autism and spinal disorders are becoming increasingly rare, with such clinicians balking under continued cuts in Medicaid payments. An obstetrician in Louisiana receives about $1,000 to care for an expectant mother, compared to $2,400 from a private insurer.

"Having a Medicaid card in no way assures access to care," said James B. Aiken, a New Orleans physician who practices emergency medicine. Other primary care physicians often devote a day or more a week trying to find specialists to treat their Medicaid patients.

Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that Medicaid enrollment will grow from its current 56 million to 76 million in the next decade as a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Primary care physicians will temporarily receive large payments, but not specialists.

For more information:
- Read the New York Times article
- Read the St. Petersburg Times editorial

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