A recent comprehensive study by Joanna Bisgaier, M.S.W., and Karin V. Rhodes, M.D. found that children on Medicaid and state Children’s Health Insurance Programs (CHIP) must wait twice as long as their peers with private insurance for an appointment with a specialist even though Medicaid recipients are supposed to be able to access care on a similar basis as others. In fact, the study found many providers wouldn’t even treat Medicaid recipients. Although expecting to find some disparity, the authors were surprised by the magnitude reports Reuters Health on June 15, 2012[http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110615/hl_nm/us_medicaid_children].
The authors attribute the disparity to health care providers’ reluctance to accept public benefits. This result shouldn’t be surprising because, as the study notes, Medicaid often pays considerably less than other insurers for the same treatment. Thus, the authors suggest that this issue be addressed as part of the larger debate over health care reform. Although it is too soon to tell, the move by some states (like New Jersey) to move Medicaid recipients to managed care plans may help broaden access even if states’ motivations are more to reign in Medicaid costs.
The study appears [http://healthpolicyandreform.nejm.org/?p=14707&query=home] in the June 16 2011 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine [http://www.nejm.org].