Finally, a Problem With Obamacare That’s Actually Real


Conservatives have no end to the horror stories they tell about the launch of Obamacare and the impact it will have on the health care market. Most of them, I think, are fairly modest, and many are downright trivial. But for the record, there’s one that I think is going to turn into a sore spot, and today the New York Times picked up on it:

From California to Illinois to New Hampshire, and in many states in between, insurers are driving down premiums by restricting the number of providers who will treat patients in their new health plans.

When insurance marketplaces open on Oct. 1, most of those shopping for coverage will be low- and moderate-income people for whom price is paramount. To hold down costs, insurers say, they have created smaller networks of doctors and hospitals than are typically found in commercial insurance. And those health care providers will, in many cases, be paid less than what they have been receiving from commercial insurers.

It’s no surprise that here in California, Kaiser came in as one of the highest bidders on the new state exchange. That’s because they’re an HMO and they can’t easily restrict their network for certain customers. With that eliminated as a way of saving money, their overall cost ended up higher than most of the other bidders.

This is not likely to be a disaster, and it won’t prevent the rollout of Obamacare. But unlike so many of the other Chicken Little predictions (21-page form! No more full-time jobs!) I suspect that this one really will be a bit of a festering sore.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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