Availability of New Medicaid Patient Appointments and the Role of Rural Health Clinics

Michael R. Richards, Brendan Saloner, Genevieve M. Kenney, Karin V. Rhodes, Daniel Polsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Objective To examine the willingness to accept new Medicaid patients among certified rural health clinics (RHCs) and other nonsafety net rural providers. Data Sources Experimental (audit) data from a 10-state study of primary care practices, county-level information from the Area Health Resource File, and RHC information from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Study Design We generate appointment rates for rural and nonrural areas by patient-payer type (private, Medicaid, self-pay) to then motivate our focus on within-rural variation by clinic type (RHC vs. non-RHC). Multivariate linear models test for statistical differences and assess the estimates' sensitivity to the inclusion of control variables. Data Collection The primary data are from a large field study. Principal Findings Approximately 80 percent of Medicaid callers receive an appointment in rural areas - a rate more than 20 percentage points greater than nonrural areas. Importantly, within rural areas, RHCs offer appointments to prospective Medicaid patients nearly 95 percent of the time, while the rural (nonsafety net) non-RHC Medicaid rate is less than 75 percent. Measured differences are robust to covariate adjustment. Conclusions Our study suggests that RHC status, with its alternative payment model, is strongly associated with new Medicaid patient acceptance. Altering RHC financial incentives may have consequences for rural Medicaid enrollees.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)570-591
Number of pages22
JournalHealth services research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016


  • Medicaid
  • audit methodology
  • primary care
  • rural health care
  • rural health clinics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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