SAN ANTONIO – Some of the state’s most vulnerable senior citizens face more health care cuts.
They’re called dual eligible patients, receiving both Medicare and Medicaid because of their age and incomes.
Doctors say what’s happening in the state legislature could have a negative impact on people living in rural communities or close to the border who already have limited access to health care.
Medicaid doesn’t just pay for children to go to the doctor. It also helps the elderly and disabled pay Medicare’s annual deductibles and copays – big benefits that got cut in the last state budget.
"The state legislature decided that it could not fund the Medicaid system at its current level,” Dr. James Humphreys says. He’s a pathologist and the vice president of the Bexar County Medical Society.
He says last session, lawmakers reduced how much the state pays for deductibles and stopped paying the copays for the most vulnerable seniors.
"If you have no money, that's obviously a substantial hurdle,” Dr. Humphreys says.
So this session, lawmakers agreed to pay those deductibles again – but the Medical Society is asking them to fund the copays, too.
Dr. Humphreys says otherwise, many family practices will struggle to absorb the cost.
"Several of the doctors down in the valley, for example, had to take out loans so they could keep meeting payroll,” he says.
Dr. Humphreys says the lower reimbursements are forcing some doctors to stop accepting dual eligible patients.
"If these people don't have a place to seek health care they don't have any preventive care, end up with a worse problem, end up in the emergency room – which we all pay for, ultimately,” he says.
State lawmakers have a few more months to decide whether to pay those copays again. News 4 will follow the issue and let you know what happens.