We addressed Obamacare's sticker shock earlier; now it's time for a burst of "access shock" -- which we've written about extensively over recent months. The New York Times covered this trend earlier in the week, and now the Associated Press is joining the chorus:
Some consumers who bought insurance under President Barack Obama's health care law are experiencing buyer's remorse after realizing that their longtime doctors aren't accepting the new plans. Before the law took effect, experts warned that narrow networks could impact patients' access to care, especially in cheaper plans. But with insurance cards now in hand, consumers are finding their access limited across all price ranges — sometimes even after they were told their plan would include their current doctor.
Indeed, critics did warn consumers about this consequence of Obamacare, but many people foolishly trusted President Obama's unambiguous, endlessly-repeated promises:
"No matter how we reform healthcare, we will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period."
The AP story proceeds with individual examples of those victimized by Democrats' violated "keep your doctor" vow:
Michelle Pool is one of those customers. Before enrolling in a new health plan on California's exchange, she checked whether her longtime primary care doctor was covered. Pool, a 60-year-old diabetic who has had back surgery and a hip replacement, purchased the plan only to find that the insurer was mistaken. Her $352 a month gold plan was cheaper than what she'd paid under her husband's insurance and seemed like a good deal because of her numerous pre-existing conditions. But after her insurance card came in the mail, the Vista, California resident learned her doctor wasn't taking her new insurance. "It's not fun when you've had a doctor for years and years that you can confide in and he knows you," Pool said. "I'm extremely discouraged. I'm stuck." ... Many consumers are still learning. They hear "Obamacare" and think it's free like Medicaid or Medicare, said John Foley, an attorney and navigator. "They don't expect to pay anything," said Foley. "For a couple more dollars a month you can get a really good plan and they're like, 'This is free. I don't want to pay for this.'" Even with pricier plans, some consumers have access problems. James Potts' $647-per-month silver plan was issued by the same company that had insured him with a different plan cancelled under the Affordable Care Act. The 64-year-old property insurance agent assumed his doctors would remain the same under the insurer's new plan, but didn't double check. When Potts got a nasty cold, he called three facilities near his home in Wichita Falls, Texas, and was shocked to find none took the insurance, including his primary care doctor. "It was a waste of money for me," he said. "I couldn't find doctors that would talk to me."
In a line that says a lot about where health care is heading under Obamacare, an insurance executive offering plans through the law was quoted in the New York Times on Tuesday as saying, “We have to break people away from the choice habit that everyone has.” Marcus Merz, the chief executive of PreferredOne, made the remark in an article describing the trend toward narrow networks in health care plans...Before the health insurance exchanges opened last October, I had written about a looming issue for Obamacare that I called "access shock." As many liberal commentators boasted that offerings on the insurance exchanges were going to be priced lower than expected, I pointed out, to the extent that this was true, the reason was that insurers were stripping down their plans so they covered fewer providers...Now, insurers are publicly boasting about how great it is that they're trying to deprive consumers of choices.
Indeed, Obamacare is actively breaking many Americans' "choice habit" from coast to coast, with some Obamacare exchanges offering just one or two "options" to consumers -- and restricting access to people's preferred doctors and medical facilities in the process. Obamacare supporters may be congratulating themselves for ridding Americans of the whole "health care choices" scourge today, but that's absolutely not how the law was sold. Throughout the debate, the president and his allies recited the phrase "choice and competition" over and over, assuring casual listeners that everyone could maintain the arrangements they liked under the reforms, which would also lower everyone's rates through expanded choices, all while bending cost curves down. None of it was true.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography