Obamacare-Forced Narrow Networks Will Spread To The Whole Country, Expert Warns

Sarah Hurtubise | Reporter

Obamacare-created narrow networks are preventing Americans from actually using their health insurance and will soon spread to the entire insurance market, health policy expert and physician Scott Gottlieb testified to a House committee Thursday. 

“These narrow networks will start to roll out to other parts of the market — the commercial market, the Medicare Advantage market,” Gottlieb said at a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing. “It’s not going to be confined to Obamacare.”

House Republicans on the committee warned that while more people have health insurance, Obamacare provisions are still preventing the insured from getting access to health care itself. (RELATED: Insurer: Obamacare Customers Must Break ‘Choice Habit’)

“Access to a queue and access to care is (sic) not the same thing,” argued Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn.

Gottlieb charged that narrow networks, which were far less prevalent before the health-care law, are one of the only options Obamacare left insurers to keep costs down. 

“These federally mandated benefits — on top of all the state insurance mandates that were grandfathered into the exchange-based health plans — come at a big economic cost,” Gottlieb wrote in testimony. “The mandated benefits were coupled with rules that barred insurers from using many of the traditional tools they employ as a way to manage costs.”

Many Obamacare regulations that supporters consistently laud are forcing insurers to narrow their networks as their only remaining option to lower costs. The health-care law banned insurers from charging high-risk patients higher prices and limited co-pays. Premium prices on Obamacare exchanges now have to undergo state government approval.

Florida Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor noted that she “can’t understand” why anyone would have a problem with governments making the final decision on what price insurance companies can charge for premiums. Montana insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen called it a win for consumers who see lower premiums when regulators step in, but Gottlieb warned that they won’t necessarily have access to health care in the end.

Ironically, the problem is worst for the sickest. The lack of cancer coverage in Obamacare exchanges across the country is well documented — an Associated Press survey found that just four of the best comprehensive cancer centers nationwide were included by all Obamacare plans in their state. (RELATED: Report: Obamacare Exchanges Not Covering Best Hospitals For Cancer Care) 

Even if Obamacare customers, already with an insurance card, end up developing cancer, it’s unlikely that they’ll have access to a specialized cancer treatment center. Those who develop the worst cancers, Gottlieb said, won’t be able to see the right physicians to treat it.

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