June 16 2011
The New York Times is reporting today that "Children on Medicaid shown to wait longer for care." The article is about a new study in which researchers posed as the parents of sick children - with ailments ranging from diabetes to broken bones to uncontrolled asthma - and called to schedule appointments. Here are some of the results:
Sixty-six percent of those who mentioned Medicaid-CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program) were denied appointments, compared with 11 percent who said they had private insurance, according to an article being published Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine.
In 89 clinics that accepted both kinds of patients, the waiting time for callers who said they had Medicaid was an average of 22 days longer.
Shocking, right? Actually no, the results of this study match anecdotes from around the country. Doctors interviewed for the NYT article said this was "common knowledge."
The Medicaid expansion in the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) will force states to add millions to the Medicaid rolls - families that fall between the current qualification line (100 percent of the poverty level) and the new one (133 percent of the poverty level). This is what those new Medicaid "beneficiaries" have to look forward to:
Lisa Hannum, who lives in Schaumburg, about 30 miles from Chicago but still in Cook County, has three children who qualify for Medicaid because they were wards of the state before she adopted them. Over the years, she said, she has encountered multiple doctors who would not accept them as patients because they were on Medicaid. At times she just gave up and paid for their treatment herself. Just recently, she said, an urgent-care clinic declined to treat her daughter for a dog bite because the clinic did not accept Medicaid. For her son, an eye clinic did accept Medicaid, but it took nearly five months to provide the new eyeglasses he needed.
Sickening. If I ever have a child that needs immediate treatment for a dog bite, I better not be on Medicaid!
Even in light of horrifying disparities like this in our health care system, proponents of government-run care refuse to acknowledge that the government is the problem. They say "Medicaid is better than no insurance," and that may be true. But expanding the currently broken Medicaid program is not going to make it any easier for poor people to access private insurance. This is a good reminder of the difference between health "coverage" and health "care." Just because the law tries to insure more people, it doesn't mean that those insured people will actually have access to the care they need. Michael Cannon noted today on Cato's blog: "Half of ObamaCare‘s projected coverage gains (16 million out of 32 million U.S. residents) comes from expanding the Medicaid program."
Proponents of the free market - in health care just as in any other area - often advocate for private sector solutions because we realize that the poor, the marginalized people in our society have the most at stake. We all lose with government-run health care, government regulations, government "solutions" - but the poor suffer most.
I'm not saying let's scrap Medicaid. The program is in big trouble and would benefit from reform (like block grants to the states, and more state-level flexibility in eligibility and benefits), but it serves as an important part of our social safety net. I'm just wondering why President Obama, who talks like he cares so much about the little guy, would support expanding an already-broken program and crowding out private insurance options for low-income people? We are the U.S. of A. - we could do so much better for these fellow Americans than just dumping them onto Medicaid.