In a recent op-ed in the Spanish media, President Barack Obama espoused the new health reform law would ensure that minorities like Latinos would have access to health care services through better coverage options.
However, the President left out that the bulk of this “coverage” is pushing many Hispanic and African Americans into an inefficient program that has seen a sharp drop in physician participation. Obamacare puts an additional 16 million Americans into Medicaid, a poorly performing welfare program.
Rather than improve the health care system, the expansion is expected to exacerbate problems that riddle the poor-performing program—namely, poor quality and low reimbursement rates to primary-care providers that have resulted in a physician shortage for Medicaid patients.
“Only about half of U.S. physicians accept new Medicaid patients, compared with more than 70 percent who accept new Medicare patients” writes Scott Gottlieb, a former senior official at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services(HHS)
The effects will not be felt equally across the nation. Minority populations will be disproportionately forced into Medicaid, while Americans with higher incomes will receive generous subsidies to buy private insurance. Heritage health policy expert Robert Moffit says the key factor among “persistent health disparities between demographic groups [such as African Americans and Hispanics] is access to the health care system.”
Ultimately, expanding Medicaid will further divide American health care into two tiers. Health policy analyst Ben Domenech explains: “The law creates a tiered system dividing those on government coverage from anyone else, deepening the economic chasm between rich and poor. Several supporters of the legislation cited racial disparities in health care, but they did not bother to examine which health care system is inflicting this damage on minorities. Instead they passed a law mandating Americans below 133 percent of the federal poverty level will be eligible only for Medicaid.”
While Obamacare supporters said the new health law would improve health care outcomes, increasing the number of people in Medicaid only makes it harder for current beneficiaries to find doctors. A lack of access eventually escalates into poorer care that many Medicaid patients receive, Gottlieb says. “Accumulating medical data shows that Medicaid recipients’ poor health outcomes aren’t just a function of their underlying medical problems, but a more direct consequence of the program’s shortcomings.”
Rather than expand a failing federal health program, Washington needs to work with states to create health programs that help poorer Americans to purchase superior private coverage. That could be the best option for narrowing the health disparities gap.
The post was co-authored by Charles Adair.