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MANY IDAHO PHYSICIANS CLOSING DOORS TO NEW MEDICAID PATIENTS

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Growing physician dissatisfaction with the government's Medicaid program is dramatically reducing access to health care for the poor in Idaho, a state official concedes.

DeeAnn Wisner of Idaho's Medicaid Management Information Systems acknowledged that doctors throughout the state are closing their doors to new Medicaid patients.Slow state reimbursement, extensive paperwork for each claim and the poor payback rates are driving the doctors away from providing medical care for those on Medicaid, the state-federal program underwriting health care for low-income patients. If a patient has private insurance as well as Medicaid, it just doubles the paperwork.

Moscow family doctor and surgeon J.B. Britzman quit taking new Medicaid patients two months ago after the state rejected a claim that had one of eight signatures misplaced. After years of fighting the system and then getting paid 50 percent of his customary fee, Britzman says he has done enough.

Other doctors say they are weary of some patients' attitude that physicians are wealthy so there should be no concern about them losing money to subsidize health care for the poor. They point out that soaring overhead costs, particularly malpractice insurance premiums, eat up as much as 70 percent of a doctor's fee.

Younger doctors face the additional hurdle of heavy debts from years in medical school, they said.

But a majority of Idaho doctors still accept Medicaid patients in what many say is simply an ethical commitment.