Thursday, June 4, 2009

Massachusetts -Long Wait Times to See Doctor

Prelude: What follows is from a story in the June 4 USA today. I would like to share it with you. Please note the longest wait times are in Boston. Senator Edward Kennedy often cites the Massachusetts plan as a model for a national system. The plan has resulted in the lowest precentage of uninsured among states (2.6%), but costs have skyrocketed by 32% of the last three years, primary care doctors are in short supply, people are flocking into ERs in search of care, and waiting times are growing. All of thise raises the question: what good is coverage without access?

Average appointment wait times in days for five medical specialties

Boston 50 days
Philadelphia 27 days
Los Angeles 24 days
Houston 23 days
D.C. 23 days
San Diego 20 days
Minneapolis 20 days
Dallas 19 days
NYC 19 days
Denver 15 days
Miami 15 days
Portland 14 days
Seattle 14 days
Detriot 12 days
Atlanta 11 dayts

By Erin Thompson, USA TODAY

They say patience is a virtue, but for those who need health care, it's a necessity. And if you live in an urban area, you could be waiting several months to get an appointment with specialist or family doctor.

A study by Merritt Hawkins and Associates shows that appointment wait times have increased on average by more than a week since the survey was last conducted in 2004.
Merritt Hawkins, a consulting firm that specializes in recruiting physicians and other health care professionals, surveyed more than 1,150 medical offices in 15 cities. The survey measured average appointment wait times in family practices as well as four specialties: cardiology, dermatology, obstetrics/gynecology and orthopedic surgery.

The survey found that, on average, wait times have increased by 8.6 days per city. Boston had the longest wait, averaging 49.6 days, followed by Philadelphia with 27 and Los Angeles with 24.2. The shortest was Atlanta with an 11.2-day wait.
In all cities among all the specialties, the wait was 20.5 days.

The survey surmises that long wait times in Boston could be the result in part of the 2006 health reform initiative that requires nearly every Massachusetts resident to get health insurance.

Phil Miller, vice president of public relations for Merritt Hawkins and Associates, sees one clear solution to long wait times:

"We need to be training more physicians, particularly primary care physicians," he says. "We have been training the same number of doctors for the past 25 years, but a lot has changed in the last quarter-century."

Government restrictions on education spending have curtailed the supply of doctors, says Richard Cooper, professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. At the same time, he says, the government is trying to increase insurance coverage and access.

"This will demand more physicians. It's like preparing for a war having previously decided to stop training soldiers. Madness," he writes in an e-mail.

The survey also asked which offices accept Medicaid patients. It found that 55% of all metro markets accept Medicaid, a program for the needy. Minneapolis ranked highest; 82.4% of offices accepted Medicaid. Dallas, at 38.6%, ranked lowest.
Medicaid's vulnerable patients often have to jump through hoops to get care, says Joseph Heyman, chairman of the American Medical Association.

"Our nation has a clear history of reducing health care program budgets through across-the-board cuts to health care professionals, and the impact on patients is reduced access to care," Heyman says. "Public safety-net programs like Medicaid and Medicare need to be properly financed so that they work for patients and physicians."

1 comment:

Unknown said...

You stated the rationale for a modified national health care program......basic primary care for all Americans through community based clinics (remember them? They were all around us prior to the intro of Medicaid). The explosion of hospitalists demonstrates that young physicians don't want to sacrifice lifestyle for the hassles of private practice. So the "concept" of employing physicians (some would use the S word to describe this new phenomenon) is already part of the healthcare vernacular....just expand it into the community. And to pacify the insurance lobby and the AMA allow individuals to extend "coverage" with personal healthcare insurance. We simply have to move away from an employee based system.