Primary care capacity in Michigan: How are physicians responding?

December 17, 2014

A primary care physician administers a blood pressure test.

On April 1, 2014, Michigan expanded access to Medicaid to people whose income was less than 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, or about $32,900 for a family of four. As of December 2014, over 470,000 Michiganders had enrolled in the expanded Medicaid program, known as Healthy Michigan, and over 270,000 Michiganders had enrolled in coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s Individual Marketplace. After Massachusetts expanded health insurance coverage in 2006, demand for primary care exceeded supply, raising the question of whether Michigan’s primary care providers have been able to keep up with increased demands for care after the Medicaid expansion.

In order to understand the current and anticipated capacity of Michigan physicians to take new patients, particularly those with Medicaid, the Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation (CHRT) collaborated with University of Michigan faculty to survey primary care physicians across the state about their practices, compensation models, and patient populations in late 2013 and early 2014 (2014 Michigan Physician Survey). CHRT collaborated with the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit to conduct a similar survey in 2012, which provided comparison data.

Key findings include:

  • Michigan’s primary care physicians reported that they have the capacity to accept new patients—87 percent of Michigan primary care physicians reported that they were accepting new patients at the time of the survey.
  • More physicians reported accepting new Medicaid patients when surveyed in 2014 than did so in 2012—from 2012 to 2014, the share of physicians taking new Medicaid patients increased by almost one-fifth (19 percent), from 54 percent in 2012 to 64 percent in 2014.
  • Physicians reported that they expect the trend to continue and grow in the next year—22 percent of respondents expected their payer mix to include more than 30 percent Medicaid patients in the year following the survey, compared to the 15 percent who currently saw this high a volume of Medicaid patients (an increase of 45 percent).

Suggested Citation: Smiley, Mary L.; Riba, Melissa; Davis, Matthew M.; Kerr, Eve A.; Zikmund-Fisher, Brian J.; Ndukwe, Ezinne G.; Ward, Melanie; Udow-Phillips, Marianne. Primary Care Capacity in Michigan: How are Physicians Responding?. 2014 Michigan Physician Survey. (Ann Arbor, MI: Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation, 2014).

Special thanks to Knoll Larkin for assistance with survey administration and to Thomas Buchmueller, Robert Goodman, Helen Levy, and Renuka Tipirneni for assistance with survey development and interpretation.