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Medicaid Patient Satisfaction: High Despite Naysayers and Longer Wait Times

Medicaid Patient Satisfaction: High Despite Naysayers and Longer Wait Times

By Clive Riddle, July 13, 2017


The July 10 , 2017 Research Letter published in JAMA, A National Survey of Medicaid Beneficiaries’ Expenses and Satisfaction With Health Care, and authored by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health frames the issue like this”: “some policymakers have argued that Medicaid is a broken program that provides enrollees with inadequate access to physicians. While numerous studies demonstrate that Medicaid increases access to care, the literature has less frequently focused on patient satisfaction among Medicaid enrollees themselves. We analyzed a newly released government survey examining Medicaid beneficiaries’ experiences in the program.”

Co-author Michael Barnett, assistant professor of health policy and management at Harvard Chan School, tells us “the debate on the future of Medicaid has largely marginalized a crucial voice: the perspective of enrollees. Our findings confirm that Medicaid programs are fulfilling their mission to provide access to necessary medical care.”

The authors used the Medicaid Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and System (CAHPS) survey administered by CMS. Here’s their summary of results: “Medicaid enrollees gave their overall health care an average rating of 7.9 on a 0 to 10 scale. Forty-six percent gave their Medicaid coverage a score of 9 or 10, while only 7.6% gave scores under 5. Ratings were similar in Medicaid expansion and nonexpansion states (7.8 vs 7.9; P = .54). Ratings were slightly higher for older adults and dual-eligible beneficiaries, but similar in the fee-for-service and managed-care groups. Overall, ratings ranged from 7.6 to 8.3 across all demographic groups.”

Access was also addressed:  physician access, 84% of enrollees reported that they had been able to get all the care that they or their physician believed was necessary in the past 6 months, and 83% reported having a usual source of care. The mean percentage of beneficiaries able to get all needed care was significantly higher in Medicaid expansion states than in nonexpansion states (85.2% vs 81.5%; P < .001). Overall, only 3% of enrollees reported not being able to get care because of waiting times or physicians not accepting their insurance. Two percent reported lacking a usual source of care because 'no doctors take my insurance.'

This level of patient satisfaction comes despite a study published in the May 2017 Health Affairs: Outpatient Office Wait Times And Quality Of Care For Medicaid Patients which found Medicaid patients were 20 percent more likely than others to wait 20 minutes or longer, with the median Medicaid wait time for Medicaid patients 4.6 minutes past their scheduled appointment time, compared to 4,1 minutes for the privately insured. 18 percent of visits for Medicaid patients has a wait time of more than 20 minutes, compared to 16.3 percent for privately insured patients.

The concern stated with the study is the wait time would impact the Medicaid satisfaction rates measured in the CMS Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and System (CAHPS). Yet the new survey findings would indicate otherwise.

Medicaid satisfaction rates were also measured last summer, under a survey commissioned by AHIP, which found:

·         87 percent were satisfied with their Medicaid coverage and benefits

·         Medicaid managed care plan member had higher satisfaction with their benefits (85 percent) in comparison to those enrolled in traditional Medicaid fee-for-service programs (81 percent);

·         9 percent) said they are dissatisfied with their coverage; and

·         83 percent were highly satisfied with their level of access to doctors when needed.


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