MICHIGAN — Most doctors in Michigan have the ability to take more patients into their practices and would accept new Medicaid patients, according to survey data.
The results of the survey by the Ann Arbor-based Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation counters a key question about expanding Medicaid: whether a physician shortage leaves the system unable to handle the thousands of people in Michigan who would gain coverage and have better access to care.
“Our data is telling us that we will indeed have enough physicians to take care of patients if we do expand Medicaid,” said Marianne Udow-Phillips, director of the Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation.
The same goes for people who would better access coverage from private health plans when provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act kick in Jan 1, 2014.
In the random survey of 1,500 physicians late last year, conducted with the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at the University of Michigan, 81 percent of primary-care doctors said they expect to expand their practice to accept newly insured patients in 2014. Ninety percent of those doctors also indicated they would accept new Medicaid patients, according to survey results.
Even among doctors who currently do not accept new Medicaid patients, nearly nine of 10 said they would if the state expands Medicaid.
The percentages of respondents in West Michigan who expect to have capacity for new Medicaid patients were lower: 71 percent in Kalamazoo County, 61 percent in Ottawa County and 56 percent in Kent County.
The Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation hopes the survey results can help to settle doubts about whether the health care system can handle the influx of patients expected under the Affordable Care Act, Udow-Phillips said.
“We hope it answers the fundamental question,” she said.
The center’s report comes as Gov. Rick Snyder prepares to recommend in his budget proposal for the 2013-14 fiscal year whether to expand Medicaid. The governor will release his budget proposal Feb. 7.
“At this point, the governor and his team are closely analyzing the impacts and ramifications of any decision. They are working hard to study and evaluate the options that will help determine the best course of action that provides protection and security for Michiganders,” said Kurt Weiss, a spokesperson for the governor. “It’s not a decision the governor feels that can be made immediately or lightly.”
An earlier paper issued in October by the Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation concluded that expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act makes economic sense for the state and saves an estimated $840 million to $1.4 billion over a decade as more than 600,000 people gain access to health coverage by 2020.
Under the health reform lawn, the federal government would cover 100 percent of the expansion cost for the first three years and 90 percent beginning in 2017.
The Affordable Care Act initially required states to expand Medicaid eligibility. The June decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that upheld the federal health care law struck down provisions that would penalize states’ Medicaid funding if they fail to expand eligibility. That left states the option of expanding Medicaid, a prospect that has strong political opposition among Republicans who oppose the Affordable Care Act as a whole.
While the non-partisan Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation does not advocate policy positions, Udow-Phillips believes the October study and the new survey data combine to support expansion.
“With those two pieces of data, we think policymakers, if they are making decisions based on data, ought to be saying, ‘We should expand Medicaid in Michigan,’” she said. “The data should speak for itself.”