“If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what.” President Obama at the AMA, June 15, 2009.
United HealthCare has advised Medicare patients all over the Tampa Bay Region and the nation that they will no longer be able to see their doctors. The decision by United has caused an uproar as patients receive letters stating that their doctors will not be covered any more. United Health care has stated it is narrowing its networks to “improve quality and efficiency”. The fact is that this is what Obamacare has been all about since the beginning: preventing choice and competition to ensure that insurance companies use new government powers to ration care.
As an active leader in the Florida Medical Association, I spent the weekend at the FMA Board Meeting. Reports from other doctors attending were that doctors and hospitals will be harder to reach. For instance, in the Florida Panhandle, residents from Bay County will have to drive an hour to see a dermatologist in Destin. In St. Petersburg, patients who have trusted their primary care doctors for years, will be forced to establish a relationship with a new doctor. That doctor may be so overwhelmed with new United Healthcare patients, that waiting lines will increase and the amount of time available for visits will go down. Moffit Cancer Center was also recently dropped by United for its AARP Medicare advantage patients.
This phenomenon is expected to occur more frequently for all insured patients in America. The goal of Obamacare’s new insurance plans is to narrow networks so only the “right” doctors and hospitals are in the plan: those that ration. The insurance companies and the government will only designate those doctors as “the right ones” if they participate in so called “Value Based Purchasing” and “Pay for Performance” schemes that are designed only to decrease actual use of medical care by patients. Patients in the area should consider changing their insurance plans to those that include the doctors and hospitals they prefer. However, those insurance companies are just as likely to drop doctors in the future as well too. The buzzwords to watch out for as red flags of those doctors and hospitals that are more likely to ration will be “clinically integrated network” and “Accountable Care Organization”.
Mr. Obama has made many promises regarding the health care plan he pitched. As the promises continue to be broken, it remains to be seen whether Americans will finally reject his vision and turn to a better plan for health reform that truly increases access to high quality, lower costs medical care with doctors they can trust.