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.