JULY 10, 2006 -- POSTED AT 9:00 P.M. CDT
PARAGOULD, AR -- You might think it would be easy for an expecting mother to find a doctor for their pre-natal care, but that's not always the case, especially when your only form of payment is Medicaid. Tanya Gibson is a 25 year old expecting mother on Medicaid. 5 months along, her OB/GYN Doctor in Paragould decides to retire.
"I was scared to death. What am I going to do now? How's my baby going to be cared for? Who's going to deliver my baby?" says Tanya Gibson of Paragould.
Since Gibson's current doctor is closing down, other clinics have told her to try elsewhere. She's called around other cities and they all have at least a 2 month Medicaid waiting list. On top of all of this, Gibson says she's also had complications with the pregnancy.
"I don't feel safe having to drive and then the financial strain it would put. With the complications, I'm not able to work, so you know, what do you do? I don't know," says Gibson.
Local doctors say the patients aren't the only ones suffering financially; it's affecting the doctors as well.
"The reimbursement for Arkansas Medicaid is low compared to standard insurance," says Dr. Barry Hendrix, Co-Owner of Hendrix Medical Clinic in Paragould.
In addition, Hendrix says the Medicaid patients are usually your most high risk patients. Hendrix even referred to delivering children in this state as financial suicide to a doctor's practice.
"We as a state are finding ourselves in a position where doctors don't want to deliver babies. There's not that much money in it and there's a great deal of risk," says Dr. Hendrix.
But what has caused the change now?
"15, 20 years ago, almost every family practitioner delivered kids here. Now, Dr. Shed may be delivering a few more OB patients, but I'm about it. That's not a viable solution to delivering kids in this county," says Dr. Hendrix.