May 19 2014
One News Now: Network shortages means difficulty in accessing doctors
by Chris Woodward
Consumers are losing doctors with new health insurance plans, but that's not the only problem.
The Associated Press highlighted a few patients this week, including a 60-year-old woman with a history of diabetes, back surgery and hip replacement. Before purchasing a gold plan for $352 a month through California's exchange, the patient in question made sure that her longtime primary care doctor was covered. She found out later that the insurer was mistaken. The AP went on to report that many stories like this are emerging "as more consumers realize they bought plans with limited doctor and hospital networks, some after websites mistakenly said their doctors were included."
Hadley Heath is Director of Health Policy for the Independent Women's Forum. She doesn't doubt that consumers are losing doctors with new health insurance plans.
"And even for consumers who aren't attached to one doctor in particular or one relationship with a certain physician, narrower doctor networks present a problem,” she shares. “It means there is a bigger demand for the services of those doctors who remain in the narrow networks than there is supply of their time, of their resources. This means that for consumers in plans with small doctor networks, it may be more difficult to get an appointment or to get an appointment in a timely manner for accessing the health care that they need. "
Meanwhile, the country has gone through only one open enrollment period for health insurance. Does it stand to reason that we could see more of these reports in the future? Heath says, "Yes," and not necessarily because of ObamaCare.
"We have a lot of problems in health care financing, in health care payments, and some of those problems predated the Affordable Care Act,” Heath tells OneNewsNow. “We were already on track to have a physician shortage in the United States. But in some ways, ObamaCare exacerbates this problem because our health care system is tied to our health insurance system."
Heath says that consumers with health insurance, regardless of where it was purchased, have a higher demand for healthcare services because they believe that accessing care through their insurance is a better deal. If you don't actually have health care supply in terms of resources and physicians, then you have a mismatch of supply and demand in health care, and that leads to continuously higher costs and scarcity for people who need to use the health care system more frequently.