Seventy five percent of Affordable Care Act plans sold in California are considered to give access to narrow networks, according to a new study. That puts the Golden State in fourth place as the state with the narrowest networks behind Georgia, Florida, and Oklahoma. More, via the LA Times:
Nationwide, 41% of networks were labeled narrow, meaning they included 25% or less of the physicians in a rating area […]To hold down premiums under the health law, big insurers such as Anthem Inc. and Blue Shield of California cut the number of doctors and hospitals available to patientDan Polsky, executive director of the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics at Penn and the lead researcher, said narrow networks can be an effective way to control medical costs.But he said consumers still don’t have an easy way to tell whether a health plan is narrow or not before enrolling.
Polsky concedes that narrow networks can be a good thing, but objects to how they have been implemented. And there is another issue at stake here, and that’s costs themselves. The purpose of narrow networks is to control costs, but early signs indicate that, at least in some places, premiums will go up in 2016, perhaps drastically.As regulators sit down to review the large rate increases that insurers across the country have requested for next year, it’s too soon to tell how it will all shake out. In California, costs don’t appear to be a huge problem: 2016 will reportedly only see an average increase of four percent in California. But in Florida, one insurer, United Health Care, has requested an average hike of 18 percent, and Florida is one of the states the report says has particularly narrow networks. (And even in California, four percent one year, four percent the next, and it all begins to add up.)If premiums do indeed spike the way insurers have requested, especially if the spikes occur in some of those states that have narrowed their networks, the ACA will be a bill that has seen both narrowed networks and raised costs. Paying for more for less choice is a deadly combination.