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Cheap healthcare plans much too costly for patients and physicians

Medical Economics JournalJuly 25, 2018 edition
Volume 95
Issue 14

Patients-and physicians-deserve much better.

Patients are taking more control over their healthcare costs. From seeking price transparency for procedures to going online to search for the least expensive prescription, they are firmly in the driver’s seat today.

However, like any driver, proper caution can avoid a major disaster. And right now, the healthcare highway is a dangerous place for many Americans … and it could get worse.

Eight years ago, when the Affordable Care Act became law, the nation’s physicians were introduced to marketplace (or insurance exchange) plans. The goal? To save consumers money by letting them shop for what they believe is the right level of coverage for their healthcare needs at a price they could afford. The power of the healthcare dollar put right in the hands of consumers.

For patients, a less expensive plan often meant higher deductibles, copays, and costs for needed prescriptions. For physicians, tracking plan eligibility was a nightmare, turning them into insurance salesmen, explaining coverage and altering treatment plans. Since then, enrollment has ebbed and flowed, premiums spiked, and costs rose for many seeking coverage.

Fast forward to today and the new “association health plans.” Seen by the Trump Administration as the answer to those Obamacare-induced high prices, the plans allow small businesses to join together to obtain coverage as a de facto single employer.

Many also see this as a way around the administration’s failed attempts to cut essential benefits from required health plans. The nation’s payer association-America’s Health Insurance Plans-warns that consumers may purchase association plans without knowing that they don’t offer these essential benefits.

The American College of Physicians is one of many physician groups that has voiced its concern that cheaper plans may offer fewer benefits.

What could possibly go wrong? I mean, besides destabilizing the insurance markets in some regions, causing premiums to skyrocket, and leaving individuals with large medical bills?

It’s 2018. Healthcare is politics as it was in 2010. That doesn’t mean making the same mistakes under a new name.

Patients-and physicians-deserve much better. All Americans must have better healthcare coverage that meets their financial means. The nation’s doctors need more avenues, not obstacles, to improve patient care. They shouldn’t have to navigate myriad cut-rate plans and find workarounds to much-needed treatment.

Washington, D.C., should be focused on providing better solutions to take care of its citizenry, not fighting over who had the better bad idea.

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