Fewer Basin Doctors Accepting Medicaid/Medicare Patients

By Jen Kastner
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND- A survey just released by the Texas Medical Association shows fewer statewide doctors are accepting all new Medicaid and Medicare patients.

Countless West Texans are feeling the pain of a changing healthcare system, providers included.

CEO Michael Austin with Midland Community Healthcare Services (MCHS) says, "I don't know how many people in the medical community I've talked to who are on the verge of throwing in the towel."

According to the survey, in 2012 only 31% of Texas doctors are accepting all new Medicaid patients, which is the government-funded health insurance plan mainly aimed at helping low-income adults and children. In 2000, 67% of Texas doctors accepted these types of patients.

Austin adds, "This is a perfect storm, no matter how you slice it."

MCHS runs a network of low-income clinics in Midland. He tells NewsWest 9 patients are getting turned away from local doctors offices and are piling into their clinics.

"There are only so many private doctors to go around in the area and they are not reimbursed very equitably under the current Medicare or Medicaid plans," Austin said.

Federal reimbursement is creating huge headaches for several physicians. Many providers say they're jumping through hoops to file claims. Then, after all that work, they still they wait and wait.

"Now it's taking between a month to maybe six weeks for us to get reimbursed and we still have claims that are out since March," Austin said.

Hiring on the help to deal with these claims can be pricey.

Dr. Jim Huston is the President of the Midland County Medical Society. He tells us, "Primary care physicians and specialists limit the number of Medicare and Medicaid patients they can see because, simply, it costs more to see them. The overhead is more than the reimbursement."

He says fees are set by the government and insurance companies.

"We can't just arbitrarily increase fees to pay for the cost that it takes to keep the business open," he explains.

Texas Governor Rick Perry has openly expressed he has no interest in pouring more money into President Obama's healthcare plan. On Monday, he informed Washington that Texas has no plans of expanding Medicaid.

Many frustrated doctors are throwing their hands up and walking out.

"We've had several private doctors basically get out of the business here in the Permian Basin," Austin said.