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Delaware passes new law to help patient access to primary care

[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Gov. John Carney has signed legislation into law that aims to increase the health insurance reimbursement rate for primary care doctors.

The legislation, sponsored by state Sen. Bryan Townsend, requires primary care doctors be reimbursed at the same rate as Medicare pays for the next three years.

The bill summary says national insurance reimbursement for primary care averages between 120 percent and 140 percent of Medicare rates. But in Delaware private insurers reimbursement rates can be as low as 65 percent.

Richard Henderson, president of the Medical Society of Delaware, said one reason the state’s primary care workforce is shrinking is the reimbursement rate.

Henderson said many doctors are switching to a concierge practice that won’t accept patients who can’t afford to pay more for personalized care and better access, leaving those patients without a doctor.

“They’re now outside of a medical practice, they don’t have a medical home," he said. "That means they turn to more expensive avenues of care, urgent care centers, emergency rooms.”

Health and Social Services Secretary Kara Odom Walker said it’s hard for Delaware to retain and attract family doctors if they struggle to earn enough to keep their doors open.

“Actually, our Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement for primary care is much better than what they’re paid in the private insurance market, which is unusual nationally,” she said.

She adds the state needs to attract more primary care doctors to Kent and Sussex counties.

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