Does Medicaid expansion increase access to care for lumbar disc herniation? 5 things to know


A new study published in Spine examines how insurance type affects access to care for patients with lumbar disc herniation.


The study authors examined appointment success rates, referrals and waiting periods between patients with Medicaid and BlueCross private insurance. Results were compared between states with the Medicaid expansion and those without, as well as between patients seeing an orthopedic spine surgeon versus a neurosurgeon.


Here are five key findings:


1. Patients were much more likely to access care with BlueCross insurance; the patient success rate among the BlueCross group was 95 percent, compared with 0.8 percent in the Medicaid group.


2. Almost all — 93.3 percent — of the Medicaid patients required referrals compared with 4.2 percent of those with BlueCross insurance.


3. The wait times were longer for BlueCross patients in Medicaid expansion states than in states without the Medicaid expansion. Medicaid patient wait times were similar in expansion and non-expansion states.


4. The study authors concluded Medicaid patients faced more barriers to care than the privately insured patients.


5. For patients with lumbar disc herniation, the Medicaid expansion didn't necessarily mean increased access to care.


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