When asked about Medicaid's low reimbursement rates, Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, said they also are difficult on private physicians. But he said the benefits of the Medicaid expansion would outweigh any problems.
"I don't think you're going to see any doctors going out of business because of this expansion. The physicians will step up to the plate," he said.
Stollings, a doctor who specializes in geriatric care, runs a private practice in Madison.
"I see people all the time in rural West Virginia that do not have insurance or access to care," he said.
He said doctors worried about an increase of Medicaid patients should "look at this as an investment," because patients now will seek treatment long before they develop full-blown conditions.
Stollings has treated patients who came down with bronchitis, did not seek treatment because they lacked health insurance, and eventually wound up hospitalized for pneumonia.
He also has seen patients in their 30s with severe kidney problems because they did not adequately control their diabetes.
Stollings said he also anticipates changes to the way doctors and hospitals are paid in coming years.
Other segments of the health care community are expecting immediate benefits from the Medicaid expansion.
Dr. Rahul Gupta, executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, said expanding the federal insurance program would be a "game changer" for public health departments, which largely serve uninsured or under-insured people.
Health departments rely mostly on county and state tax dollars to stay afloat. Under the expansion, Gupta said many of his patients now would have insurance, allowing the health department to bill for its services.
Instead of relying on tax money and grants, the health departments would collect revenues just like private doctors offices and hospitals. That would allow current tax monies to be rerouted, and help expand health department services, Gupta said.
"We feel this is an advantage," he said. "If we can generate these revenues, it'll go back into the community."
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