Medicaid: More of the Same

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The state’s healthcare program for “the poor,” expanded by Governor Martinez under Obamacare, is spewing a river of red ink. Medicaid is projected to generate a deficit of $417 million in the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years. And the future is likely to be even darker. By 2020, the state estimates that 43 percent of New Mexicans will be signed up for “free” healthcare.

To cut costs, the Human Services Department is proposing to “rescind previous reimbursement increases to nearly 2,000 general physicians and trim payment rates to hospitals by between 3 percent and 8 percent.” Obstetrics and preventive care would be exempt, but previous “rate increases also would be rolled back at 29 hospitals that receive supplemental payments to offset uncompensated care.”

Late last year, the Foundation explained to legislators in Santa Fe that nationally, “over half of providers no longer accept Medicaid patients,” and of the “doctors who do accept Medicaid, the provider networks are narrow and nearly one-third face wait times of over a month.” (Not surprisingly, the Health and Human Services Committee’s far-left members assured us that such conditions don’t prevail in New Mexico.)

With reimbursements likely to fall here, look for more providers to follow Farmington family physician Holly Abernethy, who The Wall Street Journal reported:

has turned away all newly eligible Medicaid beneficiaries because she can’t sustain her practice expenses if her proportion of Medicaid patients grows much beyond her current 13%.

For a moderately complex office visit, she is paid about the same as [a] nurse practitioner: about $80 from Medicaid and about $160 on average from commercial insurance.

Says Dr. Abernethy, “I would love to see every Medicaid patient that comes through my door.┬áIf you give people coverage, they should be able to utilize it.” But making it work would extend her workday, and “I have three small children and I miss them.”

A recent investigation by the Legislative Finance Committee uncovered average Medicaid wait times “from three weeks to nearly two months,” as well as “significantly fewer [primary care providers] accepting new Medicaid patients than has been reported by the [managed care organizations].”

Medicaid provides lousy services, and is an albatross around the necks of taxpaying New Mexicans. It’s time for the state to reverse its disastrous expansion, and work with other states to lobby Washington for meaningful reforms of a program that is completely out of control.