To hold down premiums, major insurers in California have sharply limited the number of doctors and hospitals available to patients in the state’s new health insurance market opening Oct. 1.These diminished medical networks are fueling growing concerns that many patients will still struggle to get care despite the nation’s biggest healthcare expansion in half a century.Consumers could see long wait times, a scarcity of specialists and loss of a longtime doctor.“These narrow networks won’t work because they cut off access for patients,” said Dr. Richard Baker, executive director of the Urban Health Institute at Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles. “We don’t want this to become a roadblock.”
Basically, price mechanisms are re-asserting themselves in the only way the new law allows: rationing by the provider side. Liberal wonks have assumed that Obamacare will eventually get more popular as its implementation kinks get worked out and the basic features of the law show their true value. Perhaps they are right, but if temporary savings are secured at the price of long-term constraints on health services available, we may get the opposite outcome. Obamacare’s approval ratings, as bad as they are, could actually be the highest they’re going to get.That possibility may still seem remote, but as more subsidies increase the taxpayer cost of the law and patient choice is restricted, opposition could actually climb. Obamacare’s best days may be behind it.