Last week, Republican Governor Bill Haslam announced a plan to expand Medicaid in Tennessee. Republican governors in Wyoming and Utah have also put forward expansion plans in the past month. A recent Washington Post editorial argued that there is “no rational justification” for refusing to expand Medicaid.
Despite this claim there are many reasons to be wary of Medicaid expansion even as some Republican governors signal some measure of support. A recent government report found that many Medicaid patients have access to care problems, including difficulty getting an appointment to see a doctor and lengthy wait times. Due to a looming reduction in the rates Medicaid pays some doctors, access to medical care for Medicaid enrollees is likely to get worse next year.
In the report from the HHS Office of Inspector General, researchers posed as Medicaid patients and called managed care providers. They found that 51 percent of listed providers could not schedule an appointment. Some providers could not be found at the location listed, some were found but were not participating in the plan, while others were no longer taking new Medicaid patients.
Even those few who were able to get appointments faced lengthy average wait times. At 28 percent of providers offering appointments, enrollees had to wait longer than a month. At 10 percent, the wait exceeded two months. Many states have requirements that wait times must be shorter than a month, so the fact that so many would have to wait longer than that “raises further questions about enrollees’ ability to obtain timely access to care.”