HealthDay News — Doctors’ offices capably shouldered the burden of millions of new Medicaid patients gaining access to health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, according to a research letter published online in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Daniel Polsky, PhD, executive director of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine’s Institute of Health Economics in Philadelphia, and colleagues staffed a phone bank with people pretending to be new patients seeking appointments. The phone staff called primary care practices in 10 states — Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Texas. The callers randomly represented themselves as patients having either Medicaid or private insurance coverage. The calls came in 2 waves, in 2012 and again in 2016.

The researchers found that 63.2% of doctors were willing to take on a new Medicaid patient in 2016 across all the states, compared with 57.9% in 2012. At the same time, patients with private insurance experienced no significant change in appointment availability. Short waits — 1 week or less — decreased by 6.7% for Medicaid patients between 2012 and 2016, and by 4.1% for patients with private insurance. Long waits — more than 30 days — increased by 3.3% for patients with private insurance.

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“The evidence we’ve generated does not support making major adjustments to the current Medicaid program,” Polsky told HealthDay. “We can increase the number of people [who] can access care through Medicaid without seeing any decline in the number of doctors willing to see them.”

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Polsky D, Candon M, Saloner B, et al. Changes in primary care access between 2012 and 2016 for new patients with Medicaid and private coverage [published online February 27, 2017]. JAMA Intern Med. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.9662