Idaho ranks 49th in the nation in the number of doctors for its state population, according to a new survey by the AARP. The survey also says that 40 percent of Idaho doctors are 55 years or older, and their looming retirement could further decrease the number of doctors in the state. The organization says the consequences of a statewide doctor shortage could be longer waiting times, increased emergency room visits, and fewer choices for the poorest Idahoans.
“Policy makers must listen to the grumbling that will soon become a constituent roar if the issue is not seriously addressed,” the report says.
More than one out of every five physicians is closing their doors to new Medicaid and Medicare patients, which could hamper access to health services for elderly and low-income residents. The biggest reason for not accepting patients on the government-backed health care programs, according to physicians surveyed by AARP, are the low reimbursements from the state and federal government for services. State lawmakers lowered reimbursements for some Medicaid services this year, primarily for long-term care facilities.
The AARP printed some of the responses from doctors in the survey that no longer accept Medicare or Medicaid patients. “Medicaid reimbursement to private providers is a joke….a mockery,” one physician wrote. “When a private provider is not even reimbursed enough to cover his/her overhead expenses, it’s complete charity care and a sure way to bankrupt a practice.”
“Reimbursement by Medicare is very much below what I charge,” another doctor wrote in the survey. “I am willing to get reimbursed less in order to care for Medicare patients but not willing to continue dealing with all the rules, threats, etc. with Medicare.”
The written survey of 413 doctors in Idaho said the decline in doctors accepting Medicare patients will become problematic as the number of Idahoans expected to go on Medicare is expected to double in the next 20 years. “AARP is committed to working with both state and federal lawmakers to address Idaho’s health care problems such as the lack of physicians and patient access,” said Jim Wordelman with the AARP. Read more on the report at AARP's website.
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