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Increase In Medicaid Sign-Ups Could Put Pressure On Health Care System

NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) -- New numbers released by the government this week, suggest that the Affordable Care Act website is doing better and drawing in many people who are eligible for Medicaid.

However, as CBS 2's Dick Brennan reported that could cause a series of other issues.

Medicaid is a program that offers free or nearly free access to health care for low-income Americans.

The latest national numbers showed that more than 800,000 people have been found eligible for Medicaid, which is good for people who need it, but questions have been raised about whether the rest of the system can handle the pressures of more patients and fewer doctors.

The Obamacare website asks users to pick a private insurance plan but many people have found out that they are eligible for Medicaid.

"In the long run states cannot continue to spend on Medicaid or Medicare at the rates they are doing now," the Manhattan Institute's Paul Howard explained.

New York has the largest Medicaid spending in the nation. In the last two months more than 69,000 New Yorkers have signed up for private insurance while 31,000 signed up for Medicaid.

"Medicaid is already the largest item on state budgets and it crowds out other items on the state budgets whether it's education or infrastructure," Howard said.

The Affordable Care Act does reimburse states for Medicaid expansion but some doctors fear that the surge in enrollment will also trigger a shortage in doctors which is a problem that states like California are already facing.

"Forty-percent of the doctors look like me. They are fifty-five or older and they will retire in the next ten years. The net result is that we will have five to six-thousand less doctors no matter what anyone does," said Dr. Richards Olds at the New University of California Riverside Medical School.

Some doctors may simply decide to not take on any more Medicaid patients.

"Pysicians can opt out," said Dr. Sam Unterricht, New York State Medical Society.

Medicaid pays a much lower reimbursement rate to doctors.

"Most would not, they would rather see everybody. But, if the rate is too low physicians have the option of getting out," Dr. Unterricht said.

The expansion of Medicaid could hurt coverage for the most needy patients.

"Our current system doesn't serve the poorest among us very well. So, Medicaid and the more we expand Medicaid to higher income populations the more strain we put on the program," Howard said.

The federal government pays 100 percent of expanded Medicaid costs through 2016 at which point the amount will drop to 90 percent.

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