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Medicaid Patients Have Coverage But No Doctors to See

by Benjamin Domenech on April 20, 2011

The New York Times reports on a challenging truth faced by Medicaid patients across the country in the wake of budget-pinching cutbacks: they may have coverage, but they have no doctors who can or will see them.

The problem is common here and across the country, especially as states, scrambling to balance their budgets, look for cuts in Medicaid, which is one of their biggest expenditures. And it presents the Obama administration with a major challenge, since the new federal health care law relies heavily on Medicaid to cover many people who now lack health insurance.

“Having a Medicaid card in no way assures access to care,” said Dr. James B. Aiken, an emergency physician in New Orleans.

Nicole R. Dardeau, 46, a nurse in Opelousas, La., in the heart of Cajun country, can attest to that. She said she could not work because of unbearable pain in her right arm. Doctors have found three herniated discs in her neck and recommended surgery, but cannot find a surgeon to take her as a Medicaid patient.

From her pocketbook, she pulls an insurance card issued by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.

“My Medicaid card is useless for me right now,” Ms. Dardeau said over lunch. “It’s a useless piece of plastic. I can’t find an orthopedic surgeon or a pain management doctor who will accept Medicaid.”

It’s an uncomfortable situation for all politicians, but particularly those who just voted to add millions more Americans to the system.

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