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Medicaid enrollees really like their coverage

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Medicaid can get a bad rap from policymakers. The entitlement program gets knocked for long wait times, low payments to doctors and inadequate access. Ask the patients what they think of the program, however, and you get a different answer: They really like it.

The California Healthcare Foundation recently surveyed 1,083 enrollees in Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program. Nine in 10 patients described Medi-Cal as a “very good” or “pretty good” program. Seventy-eight percent agreed with the statement “Medi-Cal covers most of the medical care people need.”

Access to providers didn’t prove to be the hurdle that other surveys have suggested. “Despite the fact that more than 40 percent of California primary care providers report that they are not accepting new Medi-Cal patients, most enrollees say it has been easy to find primary care providers (79%) who accept Medi-Cal,” the researchers find. Those on Medi-Cal did, however, report more difficulty finding specialists who accept their plan compared to those with private coverage.

California’s Medicaid program isn’t especially robust: The state recently pared its benefits. It spends an average of $6,238 per enrollee compared to a national average of $6,815.

“At a time of tremendous budget pressure and reductions in covered care, it is good news that Californians who rely on Medi-Cal have a generally positive view of the program,” the report concludes. “These findings demonstrate that Medi-Cal enrollees, like the general population, value their health care coverage.”

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