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Report (OEI-02-13-00670)

Access to Care: Provider Availability in Medicaid Managed Care

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Examining access to care takes on heightened importance as enrollment grows in Medicaid managed care programs. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, States can opt to expand Medicaid eligibility, and even States that have not expanded eligibility have seen increases in enrollment. Most States provide some of their Medicaid services-if not all of them-through managed care. OIG received a congressional request to evaluate the adequacy of access to care for enrollees in managed care. This report determines the extent to which providers offer appointments to enrollees and the timeliness of these appointments. A companion report issued earlier this year, State Standards for Access Care in Medicaid Managed Care, OEI-02-11-00320, found that State standards for access to care vary, and that they are often not specific to certain provider types or to areas of the State. Additionally, States have different strategies to assess compliance with access standards.


We based this study on an assessment of availability of Medicaid managed care providers. The assessment included calls to a stratified random sample of 1,800 primary care providers and specialists to assess availability and timeliness of appointments for enrollees.


We found that slightly more than half of providers could not offer appointments to enrollees. Notably, 35 percent could not be found at the location listed by the plan, and another 8 percent were at the location but said that they were not participating in the plan. An additional 8 percent were not accepting new patients. Among the providers who offered appointments, the median wait time was 2 weeks. However, over a quarter had wait times of more than 1 month, and 10 percent had wait times longer than 2 months. Finally, primary care providers were less likely to offer an appointment than specialists; however, specialists tended to have longer wait times.


Together, these findings-along with those from our companion report-call for CMS to work with States to improve the oversight of managed care plans. We recommend that CMS work with States to (1) assess the number of providers offering appointments and improve the accuracy of plan information, (2) ensure that plans' networks are adequate and meet the needs of their Medicaid managed care enrollees, and (3) ensure that plans are complying with existing State standards and assess whether additional standards are needed. CMS concurred with all three of our recommendations.

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