SAN ANTONIO – Texas doctors are cutting back on Medicaid patients at a dramatic rate.
Medicaid is the government-funded health insurance program for the poor and disabled, including children. But a majority of Texas doctors say they can’t afford to treat those patients any longer.
Dr. Gabriel Ortiz recently decided he won’t accept new Medicaid patients at his family practice.
"We looked at the numbers and thought it was financially not feasible,” he says.
Dr. Ortiz says lower reimbursements forced his hand.
"An estimate would be, if we billed private insurance $80 for a visit, we may get $60 - which is good,” he says. “With Medicaid, we may get $16, $12, with a lot more paperwork to do."
Dr. Ortiz is part of a growing trend in the medical community.
The Texas Medical Association says in 200, 67% of Texas doctors said they were accepting new Medicaid patients. By 2010, that number plummeted to 42%. And just two years later, that number’s still dropping – to 31%.
"It seems like all the doors all got shut,” mother Irene Lee says.
She says it’s been a struggle to find a doctor for her two boys who are both on Medicaid.
"It winds downhill, and the Medicaid patients basically end up getting no help,” Lee says.
She’s grateful for the CommuniCare Health Centers, nonprofit clinics where Medicaid patients are welcomed.
"Without the clinics, it wouldn't be possible to go to the doctor,” Lee says.
She says as fewer doctors accept new Medicaid patients, the places that do are more crowded than ever.
"The biggest problem is the wait,” Lee says. “You can't get in immediately."
By contrast, Dr. Ortiz says only 10% of his patients are on Medicaid. That’s why people like Lee are worried their options will go away completely.