Physicians say Medicaid cuts would hurt care

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Budget cuts proposed by Virginia legislators could prompt many physicians to restrict the number of Medicaid patients they see.

A survey released today by the Medical Society of Virginia found that a Medicaid budget cut of up to 5 percent would cause 41.5 percent of the respondents to stop taking new patients while another 22.3 percent would stop participating in Medicaid entirely.

The budget committees from Virginia Senate and House of Delegates released budget proposals on Sunday. The House proposal would cut Medicaid reimbursements to physicians by 5 percent while the Senate plan would reduce payments by 4 percent.

Medical Society representatives said doctors currently are reimbursed only 63 to 64 cents for every dollar it costs them to treat Medicaid patients. Virginia’s per-capita Medicaid spending ranks 48th in the nation.

Dr. Daniel Carey, the Medical Society’s president, said at a Capitol news conference today that additional cuts will force physicians to choose between continuing to treat Medicaid patients or dropping out because inadequate payments threaten the viability of their practices.

Carey predicted the proposed cuts would result in more patients turning to hospital emergency rooms as a last resort for treatment. He expects that development to cause more overcrowding and delays in emergency rooms and ultimately result in higher health-care premiums for privately insured patients as hospitals make up the costs of indigent care.

The Medical Society survey polled 6,747 physicians, of whom 407 responded. The survey was conducted from Nov. 11 to Dec. 1, 2009.


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