After Weeks Of Uncertainty, D.C. Medicaid Recipients Avoid Losing Access To MedStar Doctors

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After threatening to stop seeing Medicaid patients unless its competitor health plans paid them more, a hospital health plan got its contract extended for at least 9 months by the mayor of the U.S. capital.



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Thousands of Medicaid recipients were recently at risk of loosing access to their doctors.

Tyrone Turner / WAMU

Over the past several weeks, a chaotic situation unfolded in D.C.’s Medicaid system, potentially disrupting the care of thousands of the city’s poorest residents. 

MedStar, a health system in the city that also manages a health insurance company, announced that it was ending its contracts with two other companies that cover the city’s Medicaid recipients. Thousands of residents were at risk of losing access to a range of MedStar’s services – including primary care doctors, specialists, and pharmacies. 

According to the city, 80% of D.C.’s Medicaid recipients are people of color; 75% are Black residents living in wards 7 and 8. 

“You have to have a working Medicaid system in order to care for low income and poor communities,” says Ambrose Lane Jr., the founder of Health Alliance Network, a group that advocates for health equity in the city. “That’s what it was built for. Now, one could argue whether or not it was the best system that was built. Now, that’s an argument for a later date right now, we need health care coverage for poor and low income communities.” 

Mayor Muriel Bowser used an emergency order to extend the city’s contract with MedStar for at least nine months, but the debacle marked the latest development in a complicated relationship between MedStar and the D.C. government. 


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