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Medicaid Enrollment to Outpace Primary Care Providers

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, March 18, 2011

The reform law also increases Medicaid reimbursements for some services provided by primary care physicians to 100% of Medicare rates in 2013 and 2014. The increases will have less impact in states with a smaller number of primary care physicians accepting Medicaid patients now because many of these states already reimburse primary care at rates close to or exceeding 100% of Medicare, the study found.

The study also determined that geographic differences in primary care physician acceptance of new Medicaid patients reflect differences in physician supply, not geographic differences in the primary care physicians' willingness to treat Medicaid patients.

Funded by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the survey includes responses from more than 4,700 physicians. Physicians who identified their primary specialty as general internal medicine, family practice, or general pediatrics numbered 1,748.

The study classified states into three groups—low-, medium-, and high-primary care physician states—based on the ratio of physicians to the nonelderly U.S. population in 2008, using the Health Resources and Services Administration Area Resource File. Low-, medium-, and high-primary care physician states were determined based on the distribution of the U.S. population into these groups—25% of the U.S. population is in low-primary care physician states, 50% in medium-primary care physician states and 25% in high-primary care physician states.

Primary care physician supply varies considerably by region of the country. States with the highest numbers of primary care physicians—relative to the population—are concentrated almost entirely in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, while states with the lowest supply are concentrated largely in the South and Mountain West.

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