Ajay Kailas, a fourth-year medical student at UCF, wanted to raise awareness about Medicaid, so this summer he put up a poster board in the College of Medicine’s lobby to encourage his fellow students to accept Medicaid patients when they start practicing medicine.
“As future or current physicians, it is of utmost importance that we never forget the duties our white coats bestow upon us,” part of his message read on his Medicaid Pledge board. “We must do our best to provide care for the less fortunate as all human beings deserve appropriate medical care.”
He then asked the readers to sign a pledge to show that they’re aware of the issue and willing to help Medicaid patients.
Over the two months that his poster was on display, Kailas collected 55 signatures.
It’s still a small fraction of more than 400 medical students at UCF, but “it’s better than nothing,” he said.
The issue is personal for him.
“I come from a very underprivileged background,” he said in a recent interview. “I grew up without insurance. I remember hoping that I wouldn’t get sick or need surgery, so I relate to what these patients feel.”
Medicaid is jointly funded by the federal and state governments. It provides coverage for one in five Americans.
In Florida, more than 4 million low-income children, pregnant women, adults, seniors and people with disabilities are covered by Medicaid, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Yet, because of low reimbursement rates and onerous paperwork, it’s not a popular option among providers, and some don’t accept it.
More about Medicaid
“Twenty percent of the U.S. population is on Medicaid and that’s a problem if 30-percent of doctors don’t accept Medicaid,” said Kailas.
Kailas wants to become a dermatologist. And he already knows there’s a bit of irony there.
“Dermatology is one of the worst specialties in terms of accepting Medicaid,” he said.
He’s realistic about his future plans.
By the time he graduates, he will have more than 250,000 in medical school debt. And for the next four to five years, he’ll have to live on the meager resident salary.
So when he starts his practice, he’s not planning to become a Medicaid-only doctor, nor is he planning to flatly deny people who have Medicaid.
“I didn’t get into this business to make money, nor to become poor. It’s a balance,” he said.
This is his solution: accept a handful of Medicaid patients instead of denying them all.
“If all these graduates would see at least one Medicaid patient, it will lift the burden on everybody. You will lose money, but it won’t be so much,” Kailas said. “It’s mainly about awareness and this problem can be solved if everyone did just a little bit.”