February 6 2014
The New ObamaCare Puzzle: Finding a Doctor
Patrice J. Lee
California has been held up as a bright spot showing how ObamaCare can work at the state level. However, that spot is rapidly growing dimmer thanks to headaches doctor shortages are causing.
Remember the President’s broken promise that if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor? As we predicted, Americans who sign up for coverage through the federal or state exchanges would quickly discover that they will have fewer choices of doctors and healthcare providers. Stories are now surfacing in California and it doesn’t bode well for the Administration or ObamaCare supporters on the heels of terrible news that the legislation would cost two million U.S. jobs.
The L.A. Times reports:
A month into the most sweeping changes to healthcare in half a century, people are having trouble finding doctors at all, getting faulty information on which ones are covered and receiving little help from insurers swamped by new business.
Experts have warned for months that the logjam was inevitable. But the extent of the problems is taking by surprise many patients — and even doctors — as frustrations mount.
Aliso Viejo resident Danielle Nelson said Anthem Blue Cross promised half a dozen times that her oncologists would be covered under her new policy. She was diagnosed last year with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and discovered a suspicious lump near her jaw in early January.
But when she went to her oncologist's office, she promptly encountered a bright orange sign saying that Covered California plans are not accepted.
To hold down premiums under the healthcare law, major insurers have sharply cut the number of doctors and hospitals available to patients in the state's new health insurance market.
Now those limited options are becoming clearer, and California officials say they are receiving more consumer complaints about access to medical providers. State lawmakers are also moving swiftly to ease some of the problems that have arisen.
What’s driving this logjam? Doctor shortages have been on the rise for years, especially among primary care physicians. However, according to experts, the influx of new patients and cost-cutting measures by insurers are contributing to a more narrow pool of healthcare providers that will accept ObamaCare patients.
New requirements mandated by the un-Affordable Care Act including ending the denial of benefits to those with pre-existing conditions, coverage for contraceptives, and screenings for cancer, diabetes, and blood pressure are beneficial to patients. However, the costs for these new services must come from someone. Despite what the architects of ObamaCare planned, insurers won’t cover it all without increasing costs on patients –also a limitation placed on them by ObamaCare. Insurers have created narrow networks that are smaller than most Americans are accustomed to when compared with other private plans.
When you combine all of these factors, de facto Americans will experience less access to healthcare instead of the expanded access they were promised. And when you take into account the longer lines among the providers that do accept ObamaCare, Americans will more than likely have less quality care. This is yet another demonstration of the unintended consequences of ObamaCare.
The solution is not as simple as adding more doctors to these ObamaCare networks, given the complexity of the healthcare insurance market. States and the Administration don’t appear to have a real solution other than ensuring American have access to accurate information about healthcare providers on their websites. That’s a band aid over a gaping wound that will only widen.
We can expect the situation to get worse with longer lines for patients, more confusion about which doctors accept ObamaCare, and fewer doctors who will accept it as they face the pressure of larger patient loads. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that this artificial “market” will self-correct.
California is leader and bellwether for other states with ObamaCare. As we see these cases pop up over the country, the toll of frustration, anxiety, and eventually anger will become a sound too deafening for the Administration to ignore.