By Jennifer Popik, JD, Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics
This week two major national polls show that a wide majority of Americans are facing declining health insurance coverage and that they blame Obamacare. Another study finds that new plans being offered under Obamacare are already beginning to limit access to life-saving medical care.
Reporting on an Associated Press/GfK poll, “Health Law Seen as Eroding Coverage,” AP reporters Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Jennifer Agiesta wrote “In the survey, nearly half of those with job-based or other private coverage say their policies will be changing next year – mostly for the worse. Nearly 4 in 5 (77 percent) blame the changes on the Affordable Care Act… .” In contrast, “Only 21 percent of those with private coverage said their plan is expanding to cover more types of medical care.”
Confirming this deep-seated disappointment in Obamacare, a CBS News/New York Times poll [www.cbsnews.com/news/poll-both-uninsured-insured-skeptical-about-obamacare] out this week, found that only 15 percent of currently insured Americans think the health care law will help them personally. Among the uninsured, the number is not much better, with a mere 33 percent believing the law will help them.
Unsurprisingly, in the monthly December 2013, Washington Post-ABC News poll, 62% disapprove of Obama’s handling of the health care law (50% strongly), compared to 34% who approve. Only 19% think the law’s changes are making the health care system better, compared to 47% who see the changes as making it worse and 31% who think they leave it about the same.
Despite numerous and repeated assurances from President Obama that if you liked your insurance plan you could keep it, hundreds of thousands who have had individual health insurance policies that were terminated against their will are finding that the replacement policies available in the state and federal “exchanges” typically severely restrict the doctors and health care facilities in their plan networks.
The polling is confirming a new and growing reality–American’s current insurance plans are gradually disappearing, while the new Obamacare exchange plans are going to be more restrictive, with less access to doctors and healthcare centers with specialized expertise and high reputations for providing effective life-saving medical treatment.
A recent report looked at the exchange plans available in 20 major U.S. cities – and found some alarming statistics.
In a December 13, 2013, Wall Street Journal article, Timothy W. Martin explains
“According to the McKinsey report, which looked at federal and state‑run insurance exchanges in 20 cities including Los Angeles, Atlanta and Houston, about 60% of health plans offer coverage at a smaller number of hospitals than comparable current individual plans. McKinsey identified 120 health plans in those markets by examining federal and state exchange filings, as well as provider information listed on individual insurer and hospital websites. Some of these new plans limit coverage to one or two large hospitals.
“The number of hospitals accepting insurance from a consumer who buys coverage on the exchange could be 60% lower than the number of hospitals in current individual plans, according to the McKinsey report, which included the 20 largest hospitals in each market that it measured.”
While many are quick to blame insurers, the real culprit is the Obamacare requirement that exchange bureaucrats exclude insurers who offer policies deemed that allow “excessive or unjustified” health care spending.
Under the Federal health law, state insurance commissioners are to recommend to their state exchanges the exclusion of “particular health insurance issuers … based on a pattern or practice of excessive or unjustified premium increases.” Not only must the exchanges exclude policies from being offered in an exchange when government authorities do not agree with their premiums, but the exchanges must even exclude insurers whose plans outside the exchange offer consumers the ability to reduce the danger of treatment denial by paying what those government authorities consider an “excessive or unjustified” amount. (See documentation at www.nrlc.org/medethics/healthcarerationing.)
This evidently is creating a “chilling effect,” deterring insurers who hope to be able to compete within the exchanges from offering adequately funded plans that do not drastically limit access to care.
When the government limits what can be charged for health insurance, it restricts what people are allowed to pay for medical treatment. While everyone would prefer to pay less–or nothing–for health care (or anything else), government price controls prevent access to lifesaving medical treatment that costs more to supply than the prices set by the government.
While Obamacare continues to roll out, it is important to continue to educate friends and neighbors about the dangers the law governing them poses in restricting what Americans can spend to save their own lives and the lives of their families.
Note: the abortion-related provisions dealing with the state exchanges are described here: www.nrlc.org/AHC/index.html