Barbara Lawlor, Nederland. Last Friday, February 24, Dr. Mike Camarata of the Columbine Family Health Center in Nederland received word from the Colorado Community Health Alliance that, as of March 1, he would no longer be able to see Medicaid patients.
The word spread fast and by Monday morning, the Columbine office was inundated with calls from upset Medicaid patients looking for answers and assistance. Receptionist Janet MacDougall says, “People are frightened. Not being able to access health care is scary.”
Dr. Camarata opened his Nederland office in October of 2010, taking over the general family practice from Dr. Maurice Fauvel. In 2012, Columbine moved to its present location in the Caribou Village shopping center. Since then, the facility has expanded to include eight alternative medical practitioners who offer massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, and eastern medicine practices.
Dr. Camarata says that he treats 1,500 Medicaid patients in the area who will be immediately and directly impacted by this decision. The center will be open, business as usual, but Medicaid patients will have to either pay the $75 visit fee or find a facility down below which accepts Medicaid. This will not affect Medicare patients unless they also have Medicaid to pick up what Medicare doesn’t cover.
MacDougal says there is a large number of senior citizens who have the Medicare/Medicaid combination who will be having money coming out of their pocket. Also those people on permanent disability will be impacted.
Health First Colorado, the new name of Colorado Medicaid, has declined to revalidate Camarata’s Medicaid credentials. The determination was sent on Feb. 12, telling Camarata he had 30 days to file an appeal, which he did on Feb. 17, but has not heard back from the agency.
Camarata says, “We are happy to see anybody who needs health care. We will try to rectify the situation as soon as possible and any of our patients can assist in the appeal by contacting the state courts.’’
Those who want to write a letter of support for Camarata’s continued care for Medicaid patients can contact the office for information about how to help.
Basically, those who have received treatment from Columbine now have nowhere to go. The few clinics who do accept Medicaid down below already have long waiting times to see patients. Camarata says the system cannot absorb these numbers.
“Very few doctors take Medicaid, “ says Camarata, “I have been one of the few who do. We get paid 50 cents on the dollar. That’s why most doctors don’t take Medicaid patients. This will be a huge hardship for people. Patients will have to travel to Boulder and many of them don’t have a car.”
Emergency Room physicians have expressed concern that patients who can’t find medical help up here or down below will crowd the emergency rooms. Camarata says the lack of care for Medicaid patients up here will also impact the Nederland Fire Protection District who will be responding to the 911 calls. A trickle down effect will ripple through the local health care community.
“This is not going to get resolved unless I get politicians to back me,” says Camarata. “Any help that anyone can offer, that anyone can think of will be appreciated. I am open to any and all suggestions.”