Tightening the Leash On Patient Choice

The establishment and rollout of ObamaCare’s health insurance exchanges intends to provide individuals with affordable plan options offered by an array of participating health insurers.  Sounds like some solid competition and choice.

But, of course, all is not what it seems.  Health insurance exchanges limit consumer choice due to three key reasons:

1. Required Benefits

Any health plan a consumer decides to purchase, whether it be inside our outside the exchange, must include 10 Essential Health Benefits as mandated by the federal law.

2.  Narrow Networks and Providers  

It seems that for states with at least half a dozen insurers on the exchanges, the availability of more plans will also yield competitive prices.  What goes unsaid is that lower monthly premiums mean narrower provider networks.

Last week’s New York Times writes:

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.

The Daily Caller contributes to the issue as well:

Missouri: Patients of the state’s largest hospital system — which spans 13 hospitals including the St. Louis Children’s Hospital — will not be covered by the largest insurer on Obamacare exchanges, Anthem BlueCross BlueShield. Anthem covers 79,000 patients in Missouri who may seek subsidies on Obamacare exchanges, but won’t be able to see any doctors in the BJC HealthCare system.

3. North Carolina’s Exchange:

Only two insurance companies, Coventry Health Care of the Carolinas and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, have signed up to participate on North Carolina’s exchange.  Blue Cross and Blue Shield already dominates 85% of the individual market, and is the only insurer offering plans in all 100 counties of the state.  Coventry Health Care, meanwhile, offers plans in just 39 counties.

Katherine Restrepo / Director Of Healthcare Policy

Katherine Restrepo is the Director of Healthcare policy at the John Locke Foundation. Before joining the John Locke Foundation, she interned at the Cato Institute under the di...