If the states manage to screw this up, and prevent pay improvement for primary care, it could jeopardize the success of the ACA…
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Washington Primary care physicians who qualify for higher Medicaid payments under the Affordable Care Act might not see these rate increases as quickly as anticipated this year.
The Medicaid program has had a long-standing reputation for paying doctors at rates far below what Medicare pays for the same services. The ACA aimed to address this problem by directing states to bump rates for primary care services provided by primary care doctors up to 100% of Medicare rates for calendar years 2013 and 2014. Because the final rule on the provision was issued in late 2012 with an effective date of Jan. 1, many family doctors were hoping to see an immediate boost in their claims payments. However, “there could be a lag of several months even from now” for the enhanced Medicaid rates to take effect, said Jeffrey Cain, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Some physician organizations are concerned that states are missing the opportunity to prop up primary care because they aren't moving quickly enough to pay these higher fees.
Several administrative steps are needed first at the state and federal levels, said Neil Kirschner, senior associate of regulatory and insurer affairs for the American College of Physicians. States have until March 31 to modify their Medicaid plans accordingly and submit those changes to the federal government, which then has an additional 90 days to approve the plans. “It's unclear how many states have done that,” he said.
In recent letters to the National Governors Assn. and the National Assn. of Medicaid Directors, the American Medical Association and other organizations representing primary care doctors called on states to enact the pay bump expeditiously and engage in active communication with physicians to notify them about the timing of the pay increase.
With the ACA provision in effect for only two years, any implementation delays will make it harder for the government to collect data to see if patient access is improving by raising Medicaid payments, Kirschner said. The longer states take, the longer physicians must wait for these enhanced payments, which could affect decisions whether to take new Medicaid patients, he said.