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Doc shock rocks the mainstream media

Doc shock rocks the mainstream media

It’s an epochal event when the New York Times formally acknowledges something ObamaCare critics have been saying all along: you will not be able to keep your doctor if you like your doctor.  “Doc shock,” the third horseman of the ObamaCare apocalypse – riding hard on the heels of insurance cancellations and rate shock – galloped through the Grey Lady’s pages on Monday:

In the midst of all the turmoil in health care these days, one thing is becoming clear: No matter what kind of health plan consumers choose, they will find fewer doctors and hospitals in their network — or pay much more for the privilege of going to any provider they want.

These so-called narrow networks, featuring limited groups of providers, have made a big entrance on the newly created state insurance exchanges, where they are a common feature in many of the plans. While the sizes of the networks vary considerably, many plans now exclude at least some large hospitals or doctors’ groups. Smaller networks are also becoming more common in health care coverage offered by employers and in private Medicare Advantage plans.

Insurers, ranging from national behemoths like WellPoint, UnitedHealth and Aetna to much smaller local carriers, are fully embracing the idea, saying narrower networks are essential to controlling costs and managing care. Major players contend they can avoid the uproar that crippled a similar push in the 1990s.

Here’s another of those Quotes for the Ages that proves ObamaCare would have died even in a Democrat-controlled Congress, if its authors had been honest with the American people:

We have to break people away from the choice habit that everyone has,” said Marcus Merz, the chief executive of PreferredOne, an insurer in Golden Valley, Minn., that is owned by two health systems and a physician group. “We’re all trying to break away from this fixation on open access and broad networks.”

Give up your nasty “choice habits” and everything will be fine, America!  Of course you weren’t told you’d have to cut back on that ten-choices-a-day habit when ObamaCare was shoved through Congress.  No, you were told the exact opposite: if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.  If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.  Obama and the rest of his con artists savaged anyone who tried to tell you the truth.

Naturally, the Times tries to cushion the blow by telling readers they’ll be happier with fewer choices… but it’s a really half-hearted effort that dies after one sentence:

But while there is evidence that consumers are willing to sacrifice some choice in favor of lower prices, many critics, including political opponents of the new health care law, remain wary about narrowing networks. A concern is that insurers will limit access to specialists or certain hospitals. “Too often, Obamacare cancels the policy you wanted to keep and tells you what policy to buy,” Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, said in a speech in April.

Dr. Monica Wehby, a pediatric neurosurgeon, is using the potential reaction to narrower networks as momentum for her campaign for Senate in Oregon. A Republican promising to repeal the Affordable Care Act, her slogan is “Keep your doctor. Change your senator.”

Other complaints involve confusion over which providers are participating in which plans.

“The thing you’re buying is access to the provider network,” said Lynn Quincy, a policy expert at Consumers Union. “Right now it feels like you’re forced to guess.”

The Times is desperately soft-peddling how bad ObamaCare’s doc-shock problem is.  Some of it falls under the general rubric of careless incompetence and wasted money that has characterized everything to do with ObamaCare, such as provider directories listing thousands of doctors who don’t actually participate in the indicated plans.  And some of those reduced provider networks don’t include any doctors within convenient reach of some patients.

ObamaCare apologists are trying to confuse the issue by talking about how consumers might voluntarily choose less expensive policies with restricted provider networks.  Indeed they might, especially if they’re young people who don’t seriously anticipate cashing in their benefits for anything more elaborate than a routine checkup.  But they’re not being given a competitive choice.  They’re being told to dump their old-fashioned notions of choice and accept a top-down, centrally planned disaster that does exactly what Barack Obama fulsomely promised it would never, ever do.

There’s a big difference between implementing a systemic change through competitive choice, from the bottom up, and forcing it upon captive consumers through regulation.  Obviously there’s an immense moral difference between offering such a change for voluntary purchase and compelling people to accept it.  Frankly, the Left tends to think anything desirable should be compulsory, and the State is morally authorized to force-march citizens into a centrally-planned future, so that moral distinction is lost upon them… but it should never be lost on the rest of us.  The infusion of compulsive force turns many defensible ideas into outrages.

But there’s a big practical difference, too, and you can see it all around you, everywhere ObamaCare has spread its tentacles.  Competition breeds excellence.  Compulsion finds the lowest level of mediocrity citizens can be forced to accept.  Insurance providers looking to poach customers by offering low-cost plans with high deductibles, limited benefits, and restricted provider networks would go about the process very differently than Big Government cronies who know the State will herd their “customers” into whatever plans they devise.

Americans used to understand that anti-competitive environments were bad.  Now they’re being told lack of competition is just fine, provided the government blesses the endeavor.  It doesn’t really matter if you like the results, as long as you don’t rise up against them.

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