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Impact of Insurance and Practice Type on Access to Orthopaedic Sports Medicine

  • Shi, Weilong1
  • Anastasio, Albert1
  • Guisse, Ndeye F.1
  • Faraj, Razan1
  • Fakunle, Omolola P.1
  • Easley, Kirk1
  • Hammond, Kyle E.1
  • 1 Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
Published Article
Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine
SAGE Publications
Publication Date
Jul 31, 2020
DOI: 10.1177/2325967120933696
PMID: 32782900
PMCID: PMC7401157
PubMed Central


Background: The Patient Protection Affordable Care Act has expanded Medicaid eligibility in recent years. However, the provisions of the act have not translated to improved Medicaid payments for specialists such as orthopaedic surgeons. The number of health care practitioners who accept Medicaid is already decreasing, with low reimbursement rates being cited as the primary reason for the trend. Hypothesis: Private practice orthopaedic groups will see patients with Medicaid or Medicare at lower rates than academic orthopaedic practices, and business days until appointment availability will be higher for patients with Medicaid and Medicare than those with private insurance. Study Design: Cross-sectional study. Methods: Researchers made calls to 2 regular-sized orthopaedic practices, 1 small orthopaedic practice, and 1 academic orthopaedic practice in each of the 50 states in the United States. Callers described a scenario of a recent injury resulting in a bucket-handle meniscal tear and an anterior cruciate ligament tear seen on magnetic resonance imaging at an outside emergency department. For a total of 194 practices, 3 separate telephone calls were made, each with a different insurance type. Data regarding insurance acceptance and business days until appointment were tabulated. Student t tests or analysis of variance for continuous data and χ2 or Fisher exact tests for categorical data were utilized. Results: After completing 582 telephone calls, it was determined that 31.4% (n = 59) did not accept Medicaid, compared with 2.2% (n = 4) not accepting Medicare and 1% (n = 1) not accepting private insurance ( P < .001). There was no significant association between type of practice and Medicaid refusal ( P = 0.12). Mean business days until appointment for Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurance were 5.3, 4.1, and 2.9, respectively ( P < .001). Conclusions: Access to care remains a significant burden for the Medicaid population, given a rate of Medicaid refusal of 32.2% across regular-sized orthopaedic practices. If Medicaid is accepted, time until appointment was significantly longer when compared with private insurance.

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