LITTLE ROCK (KTHV) -- The struggle to find medical care is a tough reality facing patients nationwide and right here in Arkansas. Numerous viewers tell us it's especially hard when you're on Medicare and Medicaid and trying to find a new doctor.
Viewers have posted dozens of comments on our THV Facebook page, saying in some cases they can't get a primary care physician because doctors just won't accept them.
Unfortunately there's no quick fix to this problem; some of it's tied to politics, especially on the Medicare side of all this. But we still found advice to start making a dent and ultimately getting you the help you need. Here's a taste of some struggles out there.
"This is a list of medications I'm supposed to be on, some of them three to four times a day, none of these at this time I am on," Dianne Smith said.
It's a laundry list of medications for Dianne Smith of Hot Springs, addressing conditions like, "Fibromyalgia, degenerative disk disease, I have a ruptured disk," Smith said.
After claiming disability almost two years ago and Medicaid with that, getting a doctor to fill her prescription was, "Impossible, I've called at least 20 doctors, none of them will accept new Medicaid patients," Smith said.
Doctors say they're just full, sending Smith to the emergency for her primary medical care.
"They tell you to go to the doctor, but what doctor? Smith said.
And the stories don't end here.
"It just snaps in like that," said Bryan Kye, referring to his prosthetic leg.
Kye is on disability and Medicaid from an accidental shotgun wound to his leg.
"I literally called all the doctors in Jacksonville and there wasn't one that would accept Medicaid," Kye said.
But Kye's managed to work out a deal, at least for the next month.
"They let me pay cash and the doctor I'm seeing is actually going to try and find me a pain doctor that will see me," Kye said.
And it's giving hope for better days ahead.
"Being in so much pain, I don't understand why someone won't see me," Kye said.
It's a question we posed to Dr. Stephen Magie, President of the Arkansas Medical Society, which represents doctors statewide.
"It just gets down to the fact of how many can you treat for free and still keep your doors open or how many patients you can treat on Medicaid or Medicare and pay your staff and your light bills and your overhead," Dr. Magie said.
Dr. Magie actually hears more concern about treating Medicare patients now.
"I think we're starting to see some access issues," Dr. Magie said.
He says doctors are feeling uncertain about lagging, federal re-imbursements and proposed cuts, put off year after year.
"Doctors can only go so far with Congress and I think patients may be their best advocates," Dr. Magie said.
He urges all struggling patients to contact your congressmen. But in the short-term, try tapping resources from free, community clinics.
"That also will introduce you to other providers and perhaps they can access that provider in their private office after that time," Dr. Magie said.
It's hoping to take the sting out of subsidized insurance.
"Medicaid should not be a terrible "M" Word and that's what it is," Smith said. "As soon as you say that, it's sorry I can't take care of you and click and that's very depressing, it's very depressing and frustrating."
Despite the big response to this story, the Department of Human Services and the State Insurance Department actually told us that they don't get bogged down with new Medicare or Medicaid clients running into roadblocks. But they realize it can happen and will work with folks in need. A DHS spokeswoman says you may not get your first choice with a doctor the first time around, but you should still find some help.
Here is a list of phone numbers and websites to check out for help
The Arkansas Medical Society, Healthcare Access Foundation.
ConnectCare Toll Free Hotline at 1-800-275-1131 or TDD 1-800-285-1131
Available Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Callers in Benton, Bryant, Jacksonville, Little Rock and North Little Rock can call locally ConnectCare at 614-4689.
Or visit the website at http://www.seeyourdoc.org/index.html
http://www.pinnaclemedicare.com/bene/medpard/default.aspx?state=ar (This is the site of the Medicare Claims Contractor in Arkansas)
http://www.medicare.gov/find-a-doctor/provider-search.aspx (This link to the Official Medicare site)
In both of the above websites, you will need to contact the provider to see if they are accepting new patients.
Medicare recipients can can also call the Arkansas Insurance Commission and ask about the SHIP program. The number is (800) 224-6330.