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Sep 23

Once and for all, will Obamacare allow you to choose your own doctor?

Insurance company greed

Get it straight: Insurance company greed is why you can’t choose your own doctor.

Yes and no. Okay, so that’s not as definitive as I would like it to be. The Republicans, whose minions have actually been putting out ads trying to talk people out of exploring the exchanges available Oct 1st, say definitely no. Democrats hold tight to their conviction that Obamacare does not prevent someone from choosing their own doctor.

Here’s where it gets fuzzy. They are both right and both wrong.  The problem comes in attribution. The Republicans rightly point out that some people are getting moved from PPOs to HMOs – from insurance with a more liberal choice of doctors to insurance with less of a choice of doctors. They are generous with the “what”, but they are deceptive in the “why”. They imply that it is because Obamacare includes provisions that remove such choices. It does not. It’s false attribution.

Democrats rightly point out that, with Obamacare, you can choose your own doctor. But they leave out the part where insurance companies start playing their games.  In order to compete in the health care exchanges, insurance companies have to lower their prices. So to do this, they narrow their field of service providers to control their costs. (Keep in mind that, generally, their profit levels are obscenely high. So, it’s not really about cost control. It’s about greed.)

So, the ACA does not prohibit PPOs. But, some (not all) insurance companies have responded to Obamacare by getting rid of some of their PPO policies and creating HMO policies. Here’s where it gets nasty. In letters cancelling some people’s insurance, the insurers have stated that it was due to Obamacare. They make it sound like the government forced them to do that. But it was their choice to do so. There is nothing in Obamacare that required them to do that. But since insurance  companies will soon be yearning for the days when they could cancel a policy holder simply because he got sick, they want as many people against Obamacare as possible. Thus they send the misleading cancellation letters.

Here’s where I think the Republicans show their hypocrisy. They scream “free market” any chance they get. But they’re afraid of people going to the healthcare exchange which is a free market gathering place organized by the government. My prediction is that if people go to the exchanges, the insurance companies with both the lowest prices AND the best availability of doctors will prevail over those with less availability. If the Right Wing politicians and political groups were truly interested in the free market, they would be educating people on how to get the best deal there instead of trying to talk them out of participating. But that’s a little hard for the politicians when some of your campaign funds come from the big insurance companies. As with most things in politics, follow the money. Big business buys and sells many of our politicians, and we should view everything through that lens.

So, to wrap it up, Obamacare may have some negative impact on whether you choose your provider or not. But it’s not because of Obamacare per se. It’s because insurance companies are being insurance companies and looking for loopholes that will help them keep up their astronomical level of profits.

 

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