A significant source of "cuts" in the Senate budget proposal (page G-14) is $100 million realized by freezing reimbursement rates for Medicaid providers. In other words, even as the costs to doctors and hospitals to provide services to patients continue to climb, their reimbursement rate for services provided to Medicaid patients will remain at the same rate.
What will this mean?
1) Less health care access for Medicaid patients.
As providers see their reimbursement for Medicaid patients continue to stagnate, it will become unprofitable for them to continue to treat Medicaid patients – especially compared to patients with private health coverage. The result will be more hospitals and doctors choosing to limit the number of Medicaid patients they see, or choosing to stop seeing them altogether.
Since 2000, we've already seen this trend take hold in NC: even as the number of Medicaid recipients rose by 28 percent, the number of physicians providing services to Medicaid patients dropped by 23 percent, and the number of hospitals doing the same dropped by 61 percent.
In other words, more patients chasing fewer doctors and hospitals. That means mothers need to search far and wide to find an available provider when their child is sick, and even if one is nearby a longer wait time is more likely.
Such is the result of "cost containment" measures in government provided health care programs. Keep this in mind when you hear talk of nationalizing health care.
2) Higher premiums for private insurance plans.
For the doctors and hospitals that continue to treat Medicaid patients, they will need to make up for the low reimbursement rates. Most likely, that will come from raising the price they charge to private insurance companies – forcing up premiums.
If state lawmakers here in North Carolina were serious about expanding access to more affordable health care, they would support Senate Bill 725, which would allow North Carolinians to purchase health insurance plans offered in other states.