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As Enrollment Soars, Medicaid Fee Cuts May Threaten Access in Washington State

Aimee Sharp
Author | Shield HealthCare
01/02/15  11:12 PM PST
Medicaid in Washington

By JoNel Aleccia for The Seattle Times

More than 480,000 people in Washington state gained insurance this year under the expanded Apple Health Medicaid program, but sizable cuts in payments to some doctors are set to take effect Thursday, potentially making it harder for patients to find care.

Consumer advocates and University of Washington researchers say doctors are likely to restrict access for the state’s 1.7 million Medicaid patients — including the new enrollees — when a two-year bump in reimbursement rates ends Jan. 1.

The increase was a temporary benefit provided by the Affordable Care Act in 2013 and 2014.

“It does sound likely that certain segments of the state and physicians in certain types of practices say they’re either going to stop taking new patients or reduce their current panel,” said Davis Patterson of the WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, Idaho) Center for Health Workforce Studies, who led new research on the local impact of the Medicaid fees.

Washington state doctors could see their reimbursement rates for primary care drop by 36 percent next year, according to a new study by the Urban Institute. That’s less than the 43 percent average cut nationwide, or the 50 percent estimated reduction in some states, such as California, Florida or New York, according to an analysis by Stephen Zuckerman, a health economist at the Urban Institute.

But it amounts to a 28 percent cut in fees for primary care for children — and a 70 percent drop in reimbursement rates for doctors who care for adults under Medicaid, said MaryAnne Lindeblad, the state Medicaid director with the Washington Health Care Authority.

Read the Full Article at The Seattle Times.

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