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Half of Doctors Listed as Serving Medicaid Patients Are Unavailable, Investigation Finds

Caption: Daniel Levinson, inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services, at his office in Washington. Credit Drew Angerer for The New York Times

Caption: Daniel Levinson, inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services, at his office in Washington. Credit Drew Angerer for The New York Times

by ROBERT PEAR
New York Times, December 8, 2014

WASHINGTON — Large numbers of doctors who are listed as serving Medicaid patients are not available to treat them, federal investigators said in a new report.

“Half of providers could not offer appointments to enrollees,” the investigators said in the report, which will be issued on Tuesday.

Many of the doctors were not accepting new Medicaid patients or could not be found at their last known addresses, according to the report from the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services. The study raises questions about access to care for people gaining Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

The health law is fueling rapid growth in Medicaid, with enrollment up by nine million people, or 16 percent, in the last year, the department said. Most of the new beneficiaries are enrolled in private health plans that use a network of doctors to manage their care.

Patients select doctors from a list of providers affiliated with each Medicaid health plan. The investigators, led by the inspector general, Daniel R. Levinson, called doctors’ offices and found that in many cases the doctors were unavailable or unable to make appointments.

More than one-third of providers could not be found at the location listed by a Medicaid managed-care plan.

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