- Only six states plus Washington, D.C. will extend the federal Medicaid pay raise to primary care physicians in 2015. The pay hike is mandated under the ACA and is intended to address primary care shortages across the nation and improve access to care.
- Per the law, pay for Medicaid primary care doctors increased in 2013 and 2014 to Medicare levels. Medicaid fees vary by state, but on average, this translates to a 73% increase in pay nationally. The reality has been somewhat different.
- Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa and Maryland will extend the pay raise next year; Mississippi and Alabama will also do so. The latter two are states that have chosen not to expand Medicaid. Alaska and North Dakota paid Medicaid primary care physicians above Medicare levels in 2013; the remaining 42 states will keep pay at 2012 levels.
Historically, getting doctors to accept low-paying Medicaid patients has been difficult. Although about 70% nationally take new Medicaid patients, it varies from state to state. In New Jersey, only 40% take new patients. In Wyoming, that number is 99%.
As of yet, the data doesn't exist to determine whether the pay increases are achieving their core objective: Improving access to care by increasing the number of primary care physicians treating Medicaid patients. And if it is, is it because more young doctors are becoming primary care physicians, or because existent primary care physicians now have an incentive to treat more Medicaid patients? According to CMS, neither the federal government nor state Medicaid agencies are collecting and analyzing the data that would answer these questions.
Want to read more? You might enjoy this story about how one state is addressing physician shortages by allowing med school graduates to provide care without completing residency.