Mass. Medical Plan Foretells Obamacare’s Ills

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Mass. Medical Plan Foretells Obamacare’s Ills

Five years ago, Massachusetts’ then-Gov. Mitt Romney approved a new medical plan that requires almost all state residents to have health insurance, just as Obamacare’s individual mandate would for the entire nation.

Today in Massachusetts, the wait time to see a doctor can be as long as seven weeks, and many doctors won’t accept patients in the subsidized insurance program. That does not bode well for national healthcare reform if it is fully implemented as planned by President Barack Obama and the Democrats.

A new study by the Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS), which has 23,000 physicians and student members and publishes the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, takes an in-depth look at healthcare in Massachusetts under the state program, which is often regarded as a model for Obama’s 2010 healthcare reforms. Among its findings:

• The average wait time for an appointment with an internist is 48 days, and the wait time to see a family physician is 36 days.

• The average wait time for pediatricians is 24 days, according to the MMS’s “2011 Study of Patient Access to Health Care.”

• Access to primary care physicians is becoming more restricted — 53 percent of family physicians and 51 percent of internists are not accepting new patients.

• Patients wait an average of 43 days to see a gastroenterologist, and 41 days to see an obstetrician/gynecologist.

• While 87 percent of family physicians accept Medicare, only 62 percent accept MassHealth, the state’s version of Medicaid.

• Only 56 percent of family physicians and 43 percent of internists accept Commonwealth Care, an insurance program for adults who don’t have private health insurance and don’t qualify for Medicare. Just 44 percent of family physicians and 35 percent of internists accept Commonwealth Choice, a program for uninsured adults that offers unsubsidized health insurance to people who are not eligible for Medicaid or Commonwealth Care.

• Due, in part, to a shortage of doctors participating in the program, the number of emergency room visits has actually risen under the Massachusetts plan.

“Massachusetts has made great strides in securing insurance coverage for its citizens, but insurance coverage doesn’t equal access to care,” said Alice Coombs, M.D., president of the MMS. “We still have much work to do to reduce wait times and widen access. This has important implications for healthcare cost control, as difficulty or delay with routine access to care leads people to seek other options, such as the emergency room, which is much more costly.”

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