Are ‘narrow networks’ the new normal?

Sarah Hurtubise reports for The Daily Caller on the Affordable Care Act’s negative impact on patient choices.

Health insurers are now openly admitting that with Obamacare’s reforms, patient choice can no longer be a priority for Americans.

“We have to break people away from the choice habit that everyone has,” Marcus Merz, CEO of Minnesota insurer PreferredOne, told The New York Times Tuesday. “We’re all trying to break away from this fixation on open access and broad networks.”

With boatloads of mandatory services provided each and every customer whether they’re wanted or not, health insurers’ costs are going up. If insurance companies are going to keep prices at a manageable level, narrow networks are one of their only options. So far under the health care law, networks are narrowing while premiums are going up.

While insurance companies are trying to acclimate their customers to narrow networks, the limited choices were clearly not part of the promise President Barack Obama made when selling his health care law.

“It you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period,” Obama promised in 2009 in front of the American Medical Association. “If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away.”

Both of those promises have turned out to be false. Keeping your health care plan went out the window long ago — and now health insurance companies are defending their narrowed networks, which exclude many doctors and providers that customers prefer.

Narrow networks have essentially made one selling point of the law obsolete. Obamacare supporters constantly warned that health insurance is necessary for everyone because people may get cancer unexpectedly and not be able to get coverage afterward.

But cancer centers, with their top-of-the-line physicians and expensive procedures, have been a primary casualty of narrow networks. According to an Associated Press analysis, just four of the 19 top comprehensive cancer centers are covered by all Obamacare exchange plans in their states.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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