Grant D. Bosse
September 8, 2013
As originally published in the Concord Monitor
I know that there are millions of Americans who are content with their health care coverage – they like their plan and they value their relationship with their doctor. And that means that no matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what.”
President Obama, June 15, 2009
“You can’t spend your whole life worried about your mistakes. You f—–d up. You trusted us.”
Eric Stratton, rush chairman, “Animal House,” 1978
For thousands across New Hampshire, and millions of Americans, ObamaCare is taking away their doctor and taking away their health care plan. That’s despite the empty promises used to sell a sloppy law passed by people who didn’t know what was in it.
Last week, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield informed the Legislature’s Joint Health Care Reform Oversight Committee that it would not be covering services provided by 12 of the state’s 26 hospitals. The smaller network will apply not only to the Anthem plans offered under the Affordable Care Act Exchange, but to Anthem’s individual and small business plans outside of the exchange. Anthem says letting patients choose any of New Hampshire’s hospitals is simply too expensive, and kicked a dozen hospitals, including Concord Hospital, out of its network.
Anthem will also refuse to cover referrals to out-of-state specialists, period. You’re still welcome to take advantage of the world-class hospitals located just a few south on Interstate 93, but you’ll have to pay for it yourself.
Anthem has since backtracked a little, putting Androscoggin Hospital in Berlin and Littleton Hospital back in its network.
Gov. Maggie Hassan has known about this for a while, and Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny has endorsed Anthem’s plan to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is setting up New Hampshire’s exchange.
We still don’t know what kinds of plans Anthem will offer, or how much they’ll cost, because the state Department of Insurance clings to the ludicrous notion that its internal rules trump the state’s Right to Know Law, and that the details of a government-run health insurance scheme are proprietary until Jan. 1, 2014, the day the new policies are supposed to take effect.
Anthem argues that such drastic decreases in accessibility are necessary to prevent drastic increases in premiums. They simply can’t afford to let you see the doctor of your choice. If you’ve been paying attention since ObamaCare passed, you’ve known this was coming.
No insurance company could provide the services mandated under the law for a price anyone would pay. So they’re limiting the options. They’re rationing care.
As we socialize our health care costs, we also socialize our health care decisions. If you were paying my hospitals bills, you’d have an incentive to make sure I’m not wasting your money. But of course, I’m never going to spend your money as carefully as my own. So you step in, through the government and the insurance companies, to limit my choices.
Even if Obamacare had been well-written and properly implemented, rationed care would be inevitable. The incompetence of the Obama administration has been optional. It’s missed deadlines and delayed major provisions of the law. Employers are cutting staff, cutting hours, and dropping dependents for their health insurance plans in order to avoid the law’s costly implications.
Even though the exchanges are scheduled to open enrollment on Oct. 1, only 13 states and the District of Columbia are far enough along to know how much the plans will cost. Avik Roy, whose been tracking this slow-motion train wreck for Forbes, calculates that nine states will see higher rates for the plans offered by the exchanges, and five will get lower rates. On average, health care premiums will jump 24 percent. He hears the Obama administration will have the relevant data for the other 37 states by Sept. 19.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act neither protects patients nor makes care more affordable. It is a bad idea, poorly executed. It was never going to bring down health insurance costs, but it didn’t have to fail quite so catastrophically. They are plenty of dead-enders who insist it’s either working just fine, or would be if people like me weren’t keeping it from speeding off the cliff.
Such delusions are going to get harder to justify as health care costs continue to climb, and patients are turned away from Concord Hospital and Mass General.