Illinois knows first-hand how well-intentioned Medicaid expansions bust budgets and worsen care for the very people Medicaid was meant to protect. Ballooning enrollment has forced the state to turn to low reimbursement rates and long payment delays to make ends meet. It’s no surprise that more and more doctors are being forced to turn away Medicaid patients.
So how bad is it? New research by health economists at the National Center for Health Statistics finds that Medicaid patients face higher barriers in Illinois than anywhere else in our region. More than a third of Illinois doctors refuse to take a single new Medicaid patient. And even among those doctors who will see new Medicaid patients, many need to limit their numbers to make ends meet.
For many patients, the Medicaid card they receive is worth less than the paper on which its printed. In fact, our problems were so bad that a federal judge ordered the state to study these access barriers. That study, published just last year, found that children with throat cancer were denied appointments with specialists nearly two out of three times. Children with juvenile diabetes or epilepsy were denied appointments half of the time. Worse yet, even when these kids could get an appointment, they were forced to wait weeks or months to see the doctor.
ObamaCare will only make these problems worse. Instead of reforming the underlying problems, the law simply expands the program to more people, forcing them to compete with current recipients for appointments with fewer and fewer doctors willing to see them. When millions of new enrollees are dumped into the system, the poorest and sickest, who have nowhere else to turn, will suffer most.
We don’t have to double-down on a broken Medicaid program. Illinois can and should join the growing chorus leaders and lawmakers of other states, Republicans and Democrats alike, that are saying no to ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion. We should refocus our efforts on giving meaningful choices to the truly needy, instead of expanding a program that will trap more and more people into a system of government dependency and inferior care. The Supreme Court affirmed Illinois’ freedom to say no to ObamaCare’s unaffordable and irresponsible one-size-fits-all model. It’s time we use it.