New York Times: Obamacare Will Give Access to Fewer Doctors

Doctors in the Rose Garden / AP

The private insurers offering health insurance plans on the Obamacare exchanges are shrinking the size of the plans’ doctor networks in order to drive down prices, meaning patients will have access to fewer doctors, the New York Times reported.

Federal officials often say that health insurance will cost consumers less than expected under President Obama’s health care law. But they rarely mention one big reason: Many insurers are significantly limiting the choices of doctors and hospitals available to consumers.

From California to Illinois to New Hampshire, and in many states in between, insurers are driving down premiums by restricting the number of providers who will treat patients in their new health plans.

When insurance marketplaces open on Oct. 1, most of those shopping for coverage will be low- and moderate-income people for whom price is paramount. To hold down costs, insurers say, they have created smaller networks of doctors and hospitals than are typically found in commercial insurance. And those health care providers will, in many cases, be paid less than what they have been receiving from commercial insurers.

The move by private insurers could indirectly exclude people with preexisting conditions, the Times said—undermining a central premise of the law and one of its most popular provisions. The smaller networks could prevent people who need larger networks or doctors not included in the network from fully benefitting from the insurance.

The insurance companies are also excluding some major medical centers and hospitals, which will force some people to drive longer distances to receive care, the Times reported.

Excluding hospitals means that many of physician practices owned by the hospitals will also be excluded, the Times noted. Obamacare’s structure is causing many hospitals to buy up physician practices in order to capitalize on the financial incentives, the Free Beacon has reported.

The administration and Obamacare’s supporters have argued that the competition within the exchanges will keep the quality of the insurance high while driving down the prices.

However, many insurers have opted not to offer plans on the exchanges. In New Hampshire, for example, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield is the only commercial insurance provider offering plans on that state’s exchange, the Times reported.