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ObamaCare is perpetuating one of the most glaring problems in the American healthcare system: the doctor shortage that the country faces. Provider networks for health plans on the exchanges are already known for their limited networks, which is a way health insurance companies hold down costs, but the shortage of primary care physicians is exacerbating the problem, as the Associated Press explains:
A survey this year by The Physicians Foundation found that 81 percent of doctors describe themselves as either over-extended or at full capacity, and 44 percent said they planned to cut back on the number of patients they see, retire, work part-time or close their practice to new patients...
One purpose of the new health law was connecting patients, many of whom never had insurance before, with primary care doctors to prevent them from landing in the emergency room when they are sicker and their care is more expensive. Yet nearly 1 in 5 Americans lives in a region designated as having a shortage of primary care physicians, and the number of doctors entering the field isn't expected to keep pace with demand.
The Association of American Medical Colleges projects the shortage will grow to about 66,000 in little more than a decade as fewer residency slots are available and as more medical students choose higher-paying specialty areas.
Many primary care practices aren't accepting new patients, leaving some newly-insured ObamaCare looking for doctors who accept their health plans, bringing the value of coverage purchased through the exchanges into question. Basically, ObamaCare is all too reminiscent of Medicaid, the single-payer government health insurance program for lower-income Americans.
During the open enrollment season last November, The New York Times noted that Medicaid enrollees could have problems finding doctors who participate in the program or are willing to accept new patients covered through it. The reason many doctors refuse to participate in Medicaid is because of low reimbursement rates and red tape, which has also been a complaint about health plans available through the exchanges. More recently -- just this week, in fact -- The Times explains, sourcing a Department of Health and Human Services study, that half of doctors listed as Medicaid providers are unavailable.
Simply put, access to health insurance through ObamaCare doesn't necessarily translate into access to quality and timely healthcare. Even though they won't be eligible for subsidies, this is why many consumers looking for health insurance coverage would be better off buying off-exchange health plans. Consumers may have to pay more, but they'll find broader, more accessible provider networks.