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Medicaid Offers Access to Needed Care; House GOP Health Bill Would Undermine It

Promoting the House Republican health proposal that massively cuts federal Medicaid spending, top Administration officials continue to insist that fewer providers are willing to serve Medicaid patients. Studies, however, show that Medicaid beneficiaries have comparable access to care to people with commercial insurance. Moreover, the House proposal would make providers less willing to accept new Medicaid patients because it would likely force states to cut payments to doctors and other providers, threatening access to care for millions of children, seniors, and parents.

“More and more Medicaid recipients aren’t actually able to get coverage,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said this week. “Again, it's one thing to have a card. It’s another thing to walk into a doctor's office and then to tell you, we no longer accept Medicaid anymore. That’s not care.” Spicer’s statement echoes Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s repeated argument that we need to radically restructure Medicaid and cap federal Medicaid funds because many physicians won’t take new Medicaid patients.

Making his argument, Secretary Price references a study of physicians in primarily office-based practices who were asked if they accepted new Medicaid patients; about two-thirds of primary care physicians said yes. The survey, however, did not show that Medicaid beneficiaries can’t get the care they need.

  • Medicaid improves beneficiaries’ health. Studies show that Medicaid beneficiaries have comparable access to care to people with private insurance. Medicaid has helped make millions of Americans healthier by improving access to preventive and primary care and by protecting against (and providing care for) serious diseases. Medicaid also produces long-term educational benefits for kids, improves families’ financial well-being, and saves states money.
  • The study Price referenced showed that more doctors accept new Medicaid patients in areas with more Medicaid beneficiaries. In areas with at least 15 percent of people in poverty, providers were about 12 percent likelier to accept new Medicaid patients. That’s important because it implies that where the demand for providers is likely higher, physicians are likelier to accept new Medicaid patients.
  • Medicaid cuts would hurt doctor participation. The study showed that states that pay higher Medicaid rates — rates that were closer to those paid by Medicare — saw slightly higher provider participation. In other words, policies that would cut federal Medicaid spending and force states to cut their payments to doctors — like the House Republicans’ bill — would reduce access to care.

The House Republican health plan would cut an estimated $880 billion from Medicaid over the next ten years, effectively ending the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion for 11 million people while harming tens of millions of additional seniors, people with disabilities, and children and parents who rely on Medicaid today. Responding to these deep cuts, states would have to contribute much more of their own funding or, far likelier, substantially cut provider payments, eligibility, and benefits, with those cuts growing more severe each year.