In a new report, federal health officials say low-income Americans on Medicaid may be having trouble accessing health care because more than half of the doctors who are listed as available to treat them are not.
Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services called 1,800 doctors listed by health plans that contract with Medicaid programs in 32 states. They found that 51 percent of the doctors were not practicing at the location listed in the provider directories, not participating in Medicaid, or not accepting new Medicaid patients.
Among those who did offer appointments, more than one-fourth made patients wait longer than a month, according to the report. Most states, including California, require health plans with Medicaid contracts to make sure patients are seen faster than that. In California, the program is called Medi-Cal.
Patient advocates have been complaining for some time that in many parts of California, there aren't enough doctors willing to treat Medi-Cal patients, forcing some patients to travel long distances or wait weeks for an appointment. The federal report appeared to confirm that this may be a problem not only in California but nationwide.
The report, by Health and Human Services' inspector general, said addressing problems with access to care has become especially important, since many states are experiencing increased Medicaid enrollment after the Affordable Care Act.
Federal health officials will work to determine whether each state’s provider network is accurate and adequate, and whether the states are complying with wait time requirements, the report noted.