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Newly insured patients may have trouble finding primary care physicians
Date:11/26/2012

Implementation of the Affordable Care Act now assured by the re-election of President Obama is expected to result in up to 50 million currently uninsured Americans acquiring some type of health insurance coverage. But a study by researchers at the Mongan Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) finds that a significant percentage of the primary care physicians most likely to care for newly insured patients may be not be accepting new patients. The investigators note that strategies designed to increase and support these "safety-net" physicians could help ensure that newly covered patients have access to primary care.

"This study raises very serious concerns about the willingness and ability of primary care providers to cope with the increased demand for services that will result from the ACA," says Eric G. Campbell, PhD, of the Mongan Institute, senior author of the report to be published in the American Journal of Medical Quality. "Even with insurance, it appears that many patients may find it challenging to find a physician to provide them with primary care services."

In 2000 the Institute of Medicine published a report on the health care "safety net" physicians and organizations caring for a significant proportion of uninsured or Medicaid-covered patients that noted a lack of enough safety-net providers and the chronic underfunding of Medicaid. The Affordable Care Act was designed to ensure almost universal health insurance coverage, including expanding the number of individuals eligible for Medicaid. The authors of the current study note that many newly covered patients are likely to turn to physicians in the already-stressed health care safety net and that areas where such patients are likely to live often have limited primary care services. In addition, studies have suggested that physicians caring for disadvantaged groups of patients may provide lower-quality care.

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Contact: Sue McGreevey
smcgreevey@partners.org
617-724-2764
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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