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Primary Care Docs To See Higher Medicaid Reimbursements

Primary care physicians across the nation and in Florida are set to get more money for treating low-income patients on Medicaid as part of the federal healthcare overhaul law, but even though the increases went into effect at the first of the year, that doesn’t mean those payments will start flowing immediately.

Under the federal healthcare law, the reimbursement rate would almost double what primary care physicians currently receive. Dr. Louis St. Petery heads the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He says he believes the pay increase will encourage more doctors to see Medicaid patients, but there’s a catch:

“Florida Medicaid is not prepared to pay the increase rate, and may have to pay retroactively. That may delay how quickly physicians are willing to sign up more Medicaid patients.” 

Right now, Florida pays about 56 cents on the dollar to doctors who treat Medicaid patients and many physicians don’t participate in the program because of those low rates. That’s especially problematic for Florida’s children, a third of whom rely on Medicaid.

But Michelle Dahnke, spokeswoman for the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration says she doesn’t expect the delay to last for very long.

The increased funding, which is provided by the federal government, will also run out in two years.

“We, at this time, are to be paying this enhanced rate until Dec. 31st, 2014. What it looks like after that, I don’t have a crystal ball for that," said Dahnke.

When the extra funding for the reimbursement hike runs out, Congress could opt to extend the increases, or leave it to states to decide. But the viability of either option is unclear.

The payment rates are not a part of the Medicaid expansion, which the Supreme Court ruled was optional for states.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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