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Medicaid Patients May Travel Long Distance for Spine Care

Researchers found that most such patients could have received local care from qualified surgeons

MONDAY, Feb. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Medicaid patients may have less access to local spine care than patients with private, commercial health insurance, according to a report published in the March issue of The Spine Journal.

Bradley K. Weiner, M.D., of the Methodist Hospital in Houston, and colleagues conducted a chart review and survey of 64 Medicaid patients and 64 patients with private insurance who eventually received treatment at the researchers' medical center. Both groups had surgical pathology of limited complexity and limited comorbidities.

The investigators found that 78 percent of the Medicaid patients -- including many who lived a significant distance from the medical center -- were referred or deferred on the basis of insurance status alone. After assessing the availability of local care for these patients, the researchers found that the Medicaid patients could have been treated by local orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons or fellowship-trained spine surgeons.

"The conclusion of this study, then, is tied to a goal, to not only outline and document a well-recognized problem, but also to encourage the involvement of spinal surgeons in policy decisions both locally and nationally as they regard the health care system's provision of care and/or reasonable reimbursement levels for the underinsured," the authors conclude.

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