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Study finds some Pa. doctors won't accept new Medicaid patients

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A recent study published in Health Affairs reported that nearly a third of office-based physicians in Pennsylvania will not accept new Medicaid patients.

The study showed that Pennsylvania's 32 percent nonacceptance rate was close to the national rate of 30.6 percent. It said physicians in smaller practices or metropolitan areas were less likely than others to accept new Medicaid patients, while those in states with higher Medicaid-to-Medicare fee ratios were more likely.

Dr. Marilyn Heine, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, said Thursday that the findings were not a surprise to her. The key, she said, is making sure people covered by Medicaid actually have the access to doctors they need, both in terms of geographic distribution and specialty services.

"Across the board, physicians have been very good about working with the Department of Public Works," which administers the Medicaid program, to that end, Heine said. She noted that an estimated 88 to 89 percent of Pennsylvania physicians currently accept Medicaid patients.

Heine also said the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provision equalizing Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement rates in 2013 and 2014 for primary care physicians practicing in family medicine, general internal medicine, or pediatric medicine may induce more physicians to accept new Medicaid patients.

According to the PMS website, Medicaid reimbursement rates for primary care services here are currently about 38 percent lower than Medicare rates for the same services.

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