This summer, we took a road trip to visit members in rural northwest and southwest Colorado. We wanted to know more about concerns family physicians in more remote areas may have. Not surprisingly, they share some of the same concerns held by our urban and suburban members; administrative burden and a lack of payment parity in Medicaid/Medicare.
Rural providers also struggle to find access to specialty care for their patients, particularly for those not using private health insurance. Access to specialty care is not just a problem when obtaining prior authorizations, but also finding specialists that will accept patients. While this is generally more of an issue for those patients who are uninsured or using a state health insurance program, even those with private insurance through their employer have difficulties when no local provider is in-network.
A unique concern we heard during several of our visits is difficulty recruiting physicians who are adequately prepared to practice in rural Colorado. Candidates often lack the experience or confidence to do procedures that are considered routine in clinics without specialty providers. Because of this, they see new physicians referring patients out to a specialist for something that could or should be done in-house.
We look forward to hearing more from our rural members about the unique challenges they face and their suggestions on ways we can help. Stay tuned for the Fall issue of our magazine for a more detailed story on our road trip!