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Some medical students take pledge to treat Medicaid patients

Ellen Abbott
SUNY Upstate medical student Emily Commesso (r) with the pledge.

Medical students graduating from SUNY Upstate Medical University this spring now move to their residencies, with the goal of someday becoming a physician. Some have made a promise to keep in mind the most needy patients once they start practicing.

Medicaid provides health coverage for low-income adults and children, elderly adults and people with disabilities. Reimbursement rates are historically low, and some estimates say one-third of all physicians don’t accept Medicaid patients because of that. 

That reality hit home for Emily Commesso during a class called Physicians and Social Responsibility. So she spearheaded an effort to raise awareness of the issue among students by asking them to sign a pledge, to take Medicaid patients once they become doctors.

"I believe everyone who feels a calling to become a physician can sign on to a pledge that says I’m not going to discriminate against patients,” Commesso said.

Graduating senior Jason Elyaguov admits these kind of basically business decisions are not something he’ll face for a few more years.

“If I do end up going for private practice, I think that having been involved in a project like this, I’ll always have it in the back of my mind to be the voice in that private practice and change their methods, and start treating even a small amount of Medicaid patients,” Elyaguov said.

Graduate Ian Kratzkey says the pledge is one way these fledgling doctors can make a statement about a medical system that is in flux.

“Hopefully, by the time we are attendings, 10 years down the road, we had something to do with what it looks like, and hopefully it looks better,” Kratzkey said.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.