Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Coverage But No Care in NJ, CA

Two recent news stories from New Jersey and California again highlight the fact that "coverage" does not equal medical care.

From the New Jersey Star-Ledger (2/5/2015): "Who will treat the flood of Obamacare Medicaid patients?"

From the San Jose Mercury News (2/7/2015): "Obamacare: Medi-Cal a waiting game for many low-income Californians".

In New Jersey, patient Justin Holstein said:
"You have a card saying you have health insurance, but if no doctors take it, it's almost like having one of those fake IDs," he said. "Your medication is all paid for, but if you can't get the pills, it's worthless."

Richard Holstein, his father, is a Long Branch psychologist who has watched his son struggle to get care. Yet he no longer accepts Medicaid in his own practice because the managed care payment of about $40 is half of what regular insurance pays, and a quarter of his full fee, he said.
Similarly, in California:
"We had a shortage of primary care doctors before this flood (of Medi-Cal enrollees) came about," said Dr. Steven Harrison, a veteran primary care doctor who directs a residency program for such physicians at Natividad Medical Center in Salinas. "Now we have a dire shortage."
A common theme in both stories: Patients were promised "coverage" under ObamaCare.  But they have a very difficult time finding a physician willing to see them, especially at the low rates that Medicaid pays.  Doctors essentially lose money on these patients, which means there is no way they can "make it up in volume".

The government even forbids Medicaid patients and doctors from reaching their own mutually-acceptable contractual arrangement to supplement Medicaid fees.  From the Star-Ledger piece:
Joanna DeProspero was desperate to find a pain management doctor for her adult daughter, who works part-time at Home Depot despite back pain. When she proposed paying cash, she learned it's illegal for a doctor to accept such a payment. Doctors who participate in Medicaid cannot bill a patient anything extra, said Downs, of the medical society -- even if that payment is freely offered by the patient.

 "I've literally cried at the end of the day after six or eight phone calls," said DeProspero...
One unfortunate side effect is that the patients end up going to the local emergency rooms instead (for care that isn't strictly an emergency), thus worsening the overcrowding situation in the ERs.

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act trumpet the increased "coverage" numbers provided by the law. But much of that increase is due to an expansion of Medicaid rolls, where the benefits are increasingly illusory for patients.

As we've seen throughout history, central planning and government fiats cannot create supplies of goods and services from thin air.  Instead, they merely create (or worsen) shortages.  Sadly, patients in New Jersey and California are paying the price for their lawmakers' ignorance of this lesson.

(New Jersey link via M.L.)