Topics: Obamacare

Obamacare insurer says Americans have to break the 'choice habit'

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Philip Klein,Obamacare,Health Care Exchanges

In a line that says a lot about where health care is heading under Obamacare, an insurance executive offering plans through the law was quoted in the New York Times on Tuesday as saying, “We have to break people away from the choice habit that everyone has.”

Marcus Merz, the chief executive of PreferredOne, made the remark in an article describing the trend toward narrow networks in health care plans. The article notes, "In the midst of all the turmoil in health care these days, one thing is becoming clear: No matter what kind of health plan consumers choose, they will find fewer doctors and hospitals in their network -- or pay much more for the privilege of going to any provider they want."

Before the health insurance exchanges opened last October, I had written about a looming issue for Obamacare that I called "access shock." As many liberal commentators boasted that offerings on the insurance exchanges were going to be priced lower than expected, I pointed out, to the extent that this was true, the reason was that insurers were stripping down their plans so they covered fewer providers.

Supporters of Obamacare have argued that the trend toward narrower networks was happening before the law was implemented, as insurers sought ways to cut costs.

However, the introduction of Obamacare no doubt accelerated that trend and gave insurers a new excuse to pare down their offerings. Because plans were forced to comply with a raft of new benefit requirements that naturally drive up the cost of insurance, they had to move more aggressively to cut the rates they were paying providers, which resulted in narrower networks. Furthermore, Americans are now forced to purchase insurance no matter what.

Now, insurers are publicly boasting about how great it is that they're trying to deprive consumers of choices.

For more, read Reason's Peter Suderman.

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