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FMA survey: Doctors support Medicaid expansion, but reducing regulations are bigger priority


The Florida Medical Association has generally steered clear of the Medicaid expansion debate. But a recent survey of doctors from across Florida revealed that a majority -- 58 percent of respondents -- supported expanding the Medicaid program to include more low-income residents. But only 3 percent of respondents said it was the most important thing FMA should focus on right now.

Although House Republicans blocked a deal earlier this year to use $51 billion in federal expansion dollars to purchase private insurance for 1 million poor Floridians, advocates promised to bring up the issue again during the 2014 session. 

"I see lots of indigent patients. … This way, we will have more patients who will have access to better care — hopefully, away from ‘emergent’ care," wrote one doctor in favor of Medicaid expansion.

One who was opposed wrote, “It will flood emergency rooms with patients demanding services for non-acute care because they will not be able to find primary care physicians who accept Medicaid because of the low reimbursement rates.”

The FMA has begun a quarterly Business of Medicine survey, the first of which was conducted in July. The third quarter results released today includes responses from 562 doctors who responded to requests to fill out the survey (they are an estimated 48,000 practicing physicians in Florida).

In July, a slightly higher percentage of respondents -- 5 percent -- said FMA should make Medicaid expansion a priority. Reducing regulations was the top response then, as it is now.

For the most recent survey, 27 percent of respondents selected that as No. 1 thing FMA should focus on for statewide policy changes. Nearly a third of the doctors said they spend 20 or more staff hours a week interacting with insurance companies or HMOs.

"The volume of administrative demands on physicians has reached a critical point, and ultimately it cuts into the amount of time they have to care for their patients," FMA Executive Vice President Timothy Stapleton said in a press release. "Relieving those burdens is one of the FMA’s top priorities, and we provide our members with direct assistance so that they can focus on patient care instead of paperwork."

Other top responses to the question of what the FMA could do on a statewide level:

  • -Work to increase payment from government and the private sector (24 percent)
  • -Bring more fairness to the medical liability system (19 percent)

Other highlights from the report:

  • -A majority of doctors who responded to the survey, 54 percent, treat Medicaid patients.
  • -Of those who don't accept Medicaid, nearly half -- 46 percent -- said the main reason was low or inadequate reimbursement rates.
  • -Doctors remain opposed to expanding the scope of duties that can be handled by advanced registered nurse practioners without a doctor's supervison. 74 percent of respondents did not want ARNP's to be allowed to open independent practices. “If they wish to become a doctor, they should become a doctor,” said one respondent.

Click here to download the full report.