“I’m sorry, we are no longer accepting that kind of insurance. I apologize for the confusion; Dr. [insert name] is only willing to see existing patients at this time.”
As a proud new beneficiary of the Affordable Health Care Act, I’d like to report that I am doctorless. Ninety-six. Ninety-six is the number of soul crushing rejections that greeted me as I attempted to find one. It’s the number of physicians whose secretaries feigned empathy while rehearsing the “I’m so sorry” line before curtly hanging up. You see, when the rush of the formerly uninsured came knocking, doctors in my New Jersey town began closing their doors and promptly telling insurance companies that they had no room for new patients.
My shiny, never used Horizon health card is as effective as a dollar bill during the Great Depression. In fact, an expert tells CNN, “I think of (Obamacare) as giving everyone an ATM card in a town where there are no ATM machines.” According to a study 33% of doctors are NOT accepting Medicaid. Here in Jersey, one has a dismal 40 percent chance of finding a doctor who accepts Medicaid – the lowest in the country.
For those blaming President Obama for the newly insured remaining unseen by primary healthcare physicians, the government has provided monetary incentives for doctors to accept new Medicaid patients—a 30% increase in most states (and a 50% increase in New Jersey.) Despite the government’s valiant attempts to give the nations the unemployed and underemployed adequate health care, many doctors are still unwilling to take on Medicaid patients. The arguments as to why physicians are not jumping at the chance vary, but the undeniable truth is that too many of us are insured in name only. According to Whitehouse.gov, “21 percent of African Americans were uninsured in 2009, and more about 20 percent of African Americans did not have a regular doctor, compared with less than 16 percent of White Americans.” Statistics prove that in some Black communities preventive doctors’ visits are scarce because health insurance is not an option. Prior to ACA, African Americans were 55 percent more likely to be uninsured than White ones.
However, physicians say they are rejecting Medicaid patients with good reason. One doctor explains, “the state reimburses… only about $23.50 for a basic office visit [of those insured by Medicaid], less than half of what [I get] from Medicare or private insurers.” The argument of physicians is essentially that they aren’t being paid enough to treat the ill, which finds poor and “at risk” populations in danger—as usual. Ninety-six doctors measured the value of my life by how much the government is willing to pay for my preventive visit. I remain grateful for the Affordable Care Act and understand that we, the people, must continue to fight to make sure that the access it promises to provide can become tangible for all. Though the government, under President Obama, has made tremendous strides in equalizing the divide between the healthcare 'haves' and 'have nots,' we still have so far to go.