When you are sick, you sort of assume that you will be able to see a doctor. But according to a recent survey by the National Center for Health Statistics, not all doctors are accepting new patients. That’s especially the case if you are on Medicaid, the federal health program that serves the poor. The good news for the sick and injured is that doctors in the Ninth District are more willing and able to see new patients than doctors elsewhere.
The survey looked at access for new patients with three types of insurance coverage: private, Medicare and Medicaid (the survey did not ask about the uninsured). Overall, about 95 percent of office-based physicians across the country accepted some new patients.
But apparently not all patients are created equal, because access differed by type of insurance. Patients with both private insurance and Medicare had about an 85 percent chance of being able to find a doctor taking these types of new patients. But only 69 percent of doctors said they were accepting new patients on Medicaid, which typically reimburses doctors at a lower rate than other health insurance coverage.
But new-patient rates among doctors in the Ninth District were universally higher (see chart). Doctors in Minnesota accepted new patients at a rate of about 94 percent, regardless of insurance type. The Dakotas and Montana went completely against the trend; doctors in each of those states were more open to accepting new Medicaid patients than those with either private or Medicare insurance.