As I mentioned in my last blog, having a community-run non-profit involved in administering Medicaid benefits is important. This is being threatened with recent news that Columbia United Providers (CUP) has been barred from the bidding process in Washington’s state Medicaid Managed Care program.

Columbia United Providers’ Medical Director Dr. Lisa Morrison said “without the CUP network in place, the Medicaid recipients in Clark County will not be able to access care beyond hospital emergency rooms.”

Dr. Morrison has new research to back up her claim.

According to a report from researchers at the University of Colorado (Aurora) School of Medicine and the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Medicaid beneficiaries are up against significant barriers to timely primary care. As a result, they end up in emergency medicine services more frequently than privately insured individuals.

After analyzing the responses from 230,258 adults to the National Health Interview Survey between 1999 and 2009, the researchers found that 16.3 percent of Medicaid beneficiaries and 8.9 percent of privately insured individuals confronted at least one barrier to getting timely primary care. As a result, Medicaid beneficiaries had a higher rate of emergency room visits (39.6 percent) as compared to patients with private insurance (17.7 percent).

Barriers to primary care examined in the study included not being able to make contact with their doctor’s office over the telephone, appointments scheduled too far out, long waits at the doctor’s office, office hours not conducive to the patient’s schedule, and not having transportation to get to healthcare facilities. The patients interviewed included 24,986 Medicaid and 205,272 private insurance beneficiaries.