Thousands Scramble to Get Medical Procedures Before Obamacare Begins

Thousands Scramble to Get Medical Procedures Before Obamacare Begins

With Obamacare coverage beginning in earnest on Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reports that thousands of people for which Obamacare plans will block some health care access are rushing to get medical tests and procedures done before their pre-ACA coverage is eliminated.

Those who were receiving medical care before being forced to sign up to a new plan on HealthCare.gov will, in many cases, be locked out of hospitals and prevented from seeing doctors who they had typically used. The WSJ contends that about 70% of new plans are more restrictive in the range of doctors and hospitals available to patients than their predecessors. 

Fearing that the will be unable to use the doctors and hospitals they want with their new plans, doctors are reporting a massive uptick in the number of patients calling for preventative procedures or moving up their planned surgeries to prevent a disaster once Obamacare measures strike.

The paper explains that while supporters of the Affordable Care Act may argue that procedures will continue to be available, the plans severely curb access to certain doctors and hospitals, preventing patients from getting the level of care they are used to at their usual price. In particular, insurers now using the Obamacare system have begun to exclude major academic institutions from their coverage, as these compete with cheaper community hospitals ostensibly providing the same service. 

To prevent patients from spending more of their money on better care, the insurance plans simply eliminate the competition from coverage plans to the benefit of community hospitals. Many plans also require referrals to visit specialists, which would require someone already familiar with a long-time specialist to find a general practitioner to direct them to the doctor they wanted to see in the first place.

These changes will affect the roughly 2 million people that used HealthCare.gov or their state affiliates to buy new insurance. This number is about one million short of the goal the White House set for itself, the result of HealthCare.gov failing to work properly for months and many plans being simply unaffordable to most Americans once they managed to get on the website at all. The White House made an exception to the December deadline to sign up for insurance for those currently insured who have to go through the system, a “hardship” exception in which Obamacare itself is the hardship. 

According to a recent report by the New York Times, the hardest hit Americans are squarely in the middle class.

One professional interviewed by the Journal warned ominously not of the Americans rushing to have procedures done, but those that have no reason to need preventative care and will need it as they grow older. Those without this ability to rush due to their current good health will have a “rude awakening,” said James Conroy, chief health care officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges. He warned that these people will likely be surprised at their limited new insurance when they finally need to rely on Obamacare for medical help.

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