As he tries to put to rest several outrageous lies about health care reform, President Obama has said repeatedly that consumers who already have a health care plan they like, can keep it. And you can continue to choose your doctors. No one is going to interfere with the relationship between you and your doctor, he says.
Unfortunately, the president isn’t quite telling the truth. He’s fudging a bit. The simple truth is, he can’t guarantee that you get to keep your insurance. Under certain conditions, you could lose your insurance today, without health care reform. That’s the way the system works.
Nor can he guarantee that you get to choose your doctor. You don’t get to choose your doctors today, without health care reform. That’s the way the system works.
Let me illustrate with a personal example. First off, let me say that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution provides a pretty comprehensive health insurance plan. We are self-insured. The plan is managed by Aetna. And Aetna, like most big companies, negotiates with a group of doctors for certain rates. Those doctors are called “in network.” If you want to go outside the network, that’s fine. But prepare to pay heavily out of pocket for the privilege.
Having just relocated to Washington, I have to find a new pediatrician for my infant daughter. I sought recommendations from several acquaintances, and the same name came up repeatedly. (I’ll just call her Dr. Amy.)
I called Dr. Amy’s office and was given an immediate appointment. But I was also told she is “out-of-network” for Aetna.
Called Aetna. They explained I would pay several hundred dollars a year extra for the privilege of taking my baby girl to Dr. Amy.
So, I called another pediatrician who is “in-network.” She said she could see my baby at the end of October.
I have a choice to make: Pay through the nose for a highly recommended doctor who can see my baby immediately. Or, go to the doctor my insurance will pay for, which would mean my child would run months behind on her vaccination schedule. This isn’t a disaster, but it is certainly frustrating.
I think the president has been fudging on the absolute truth about your relationship with your insurance and your doctors under his proposals because he wants to satisfy those people who have perfect health insurance right now. I wonder how many people that could possibly be.