Report: Medicaid Reduces Health Care Access and Recipients May Receive Worse Quality Care

Administrative burdens such as long wait times for reimbursement can also reduce access

An Obamacare logo on the door of the UniVista Insurance agency in Miami / Getty Images
July 12, 2017

Medicaid has been shown to reduce access to health care and recipients of the program may receive worse care in comparison to those with private insurance, according to a report from the Heritage Foundation.

According to the data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics, in 2013 there were 68.9 percent of physicians that accepted new Medicaid patients while 84.7 percent accepted new privately insured patients.

"Physicians are less likely to accept Medicaid patients in their practice because Medicaid payment rates for medical services are set at artificially low levels—in some cases even below the cost of providing the services," the report explains.

The research also finds that patients with Medicaid coverage may receive less preventive care such as Pap tests and clinical breast exams than those with private coverage. Other studies find that Medicaid patients with coronary artery bypass surgery or those with cancer had worse outcomes than those with private insurance.

"According to a study in the journal Cancer, researchers found that Medicaid patients who were diagnosed with breast, colorectal, or lung cancer had a two-to-three times greater risk of dying from their disease than patients with other types of insurance, even after controlling for other factors, such as site and stage of the cancer and the gender of the patients," the report states.

Finally, Medicaid has many administrative burdens that make it difficult for physicians to comply. The average wait time for a reimbursement for Medicaid is much longer than it is for private insurers. For example, Pennsylvania's wait time for a reimbursement is 115 days.

"In the states where providers face low reimbursement and long wait times, the number of physicians who accept Medicaid patients was particularly low," the report states. "However, in states with high reimbursement rates but long wait times, physician participation was not significantly higher, suggesting that raising reimbursement rates without addressing wait times will not improve access."

While former president Obama touted the ability of Obamacare to expand Medicaid in a way to increase access to Americans, Heritage argues that the expansion just gave more sub-par services to more people.

"The reality is that Medicaid fails to provide timely access to care and has a poor record in providing quality care in comparison with private sector health plans and providers," the report states. "Yet, Obamacare's architects claimed success for having expanded Medicaid's sub-par services to more people, further exacerbating these problems."