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Home » How Doctors Can Help Low-Income Patients: P.J. Parmar (Transcript)

How Doctors Can Help Low-Income Patients: P.J. Parmar (Transcript)

P.J. Parmar


Colfax Avenue, here in Denver, Colorado, was once called the longest, wickedest street in America. My office is there in the same place — it’s a medical desert.

There are government clinics and hospitals nearby, but they’re not enough to handle the poor who live in the area. By poor, I mean those who are on Medicaid. Not just for the homeless; 20% of this country is on Medicaid.

If your neighbors have a family of four and make less than $33,000 a year, then they can get Medicaid. But they can’t find a doctor to see them.

A study by Merritt Hawkins found that only 20% of the family doctors in Denver take any Medicaid patients. And of those 20%, some have caps, like five Medicaid patients a month. Others make Medicaid patients wait months to be seen, but will see you today, if you have Blue Cross. This form of classist discrimination is legal and is not just a problem in Denver. Almost half the family doctors in the country refuse to see Medicaid patients.

Why? Well, because Medicaid pays less than private insurance and because Medicaid patients are seen as more challenging. Some show up late for appointments, some don’t speak English and some have trouble following instructions.

I thought about this while in medical school. If I could design a practice that caters to low-income folks instead of avoiding them, then I would have guaranteed customers and very little competition.

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