Rudolf/picture alliance/Arco Images G/Newscom

Rudolf/picture alliance/Arco Images G/Newscom

The New York Times (NYT) has a must-read article this morning making a point that we’ve previously emphasized—that Obamacare’s insurance “coverage” may not really be coverage at all, as restrictive doctor networks and low reimbursement rates will limit access to care:

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….

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.

Some consumer advocates and health care providers are increasingly concerned. Decades of experience with Medicaid, the program for low-income people, show that having an insurance card does not guarantee access to specialists or other providers.

The NYT article goes on to quote a senior executive from an association of community health centers—which would be expected to treat large numbers of previously uninsured patients—saying that most insurers “have shown little interest in including us in their provider networks.” The president of a safety-net hospital trade group went further:

Insurers were telling his members: “We don’t want you in our network. We are worried about having your patients, who are sick and have complicated conditions.”

In other words, as the NYT article notes, “even though insurers will be forbidden to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, they could subtly discourage the enrollment of sicker patients by limiting the size of their provider networks.”

Just as a Los Angeles Times article last week documented, consumers may hear the words “the doctor can’t see you now…a lot more often after getting health insurance under” Obamacare. To limit the skyrocketing growth of premiums due to the law’s new mandates, insurers are sharply restricting their physician networks. Patients could face the choice of giving up their established doctor and traveling long distances to find a new doctor or hospital in their insurance company’s provider network—or paying significantly more to see a more convenient and accessible doctor on an out-of-network basis.

Supporters of Obamacare like to call the law the “Affordable Care Act.” But as the Times reports this morning, that label presents a contradiction in terms—because under Obamacare, the “coverage” will likely give little access to actual health care.