Some Alaskan doctors who serve Medicaid patients are seeing decreases in reimbursement rates that will become permanent later this month.

The 5% cuts do not affect primary care doctors like pediatricians or family physicians. They do affect specialists as well as “non-primary case professional services, personal care services, community behavioral health services, applied behavioral analysis services, and transportation & accommodation services,” according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

The reimbursement cuts started days after Gov. Mike Dunleavy cut more than $50 million from the state Medicaid budget in late June, they will become permanent on Oct. 25.

Becky Hultberg, President and CEO of Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association, said the cuts will affect hospitals, doctors and patients — not just people on Medicaid. She said providers have taken other reimbursement cuts in recent years and as a result, some may decide to stop taking Medicaid or limit the patients they see.

“That then creates a problem of access to care for Medicaid patients,” Hultberg said. “Because if enough physicians do that then you may have really long wait times if you are a Medicaid patient or you may have difficulty finding a physician to take care of you.”

Hultberg said another concern is that physicians with specialty practices that have a high percentage of Medicaid patients might consider leaving the state. She said that should be spurring a community conversation.

“What kind of specialties do we want to have here, because persistent Medicaid cuts, and I think we are kind of getting to that tipping point, could really have an impact on what services are available here for everyone not just for Medicaid patients,” she said.

In addition to Medicaid reimbursement rates, Dunleavy cut $27 million for adult enhanced dental services. Coverage for things like routine teeth cleaning ended on Sept. 30. Patients who had procedures that began before that date but were not completed have until the end of October to get those done.

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