Long Waits a Side Effect of Massachusetts Health Law
The Boston Herald discussed some of the unintended effects of Massachusetts’ 2006 health reform law. It is now clear that an expansion of underinsured patients through Medicaid (called MassHealth in the Bay State) results in longer waits for physician appointments.
In an unscientific experiment, the article notes that out of seven primary care offices contacted, only one of them would accept the caller, posing as a new patient with MassHealth insurance. Also noted was that the typical wait for an appointment was 50 business days; two and-a-half months.
The reason appears to be poor or no reimbursement and onerous paperwork associated with MassHealth visits.
Problems such as this seen with the Massachusetts system are very significant, because the national reform law can be seen as a larger version of the same program.
It seems clear that administered prices which do not cover the cost of services provided will not stand over time, and that seems to be the case here. As has also been noted, total system costs exceeding projections have also plagued the Massachusetts program. Fortunately, the national law unfolds over several years, so there should be time to react to these unintended consequences. Massachusetts may again provide examples of what will work and what will not, as they will be facing these problems first.