Two More Lawsuits Over Narrow Networks

Despite the fact that narrow networks continue to come under fire, we believe they will remain an integral part of the fabric of health plan options.

Narrow network strategies are employed by carriers as a means to control costs, offer lower-priced health insurance options, and still comply with new provisions of the Affordable Care Act such as medical loss ratio requirements and qualified health plan actuarial values. The rub with narrow networks is that while narrow networks can help lower premiums, they can also limit choice, access and potentially even quality.  Plus, despite lower rates they can ultimately cost individual patients a lot more.

Lawsuit form with a stethoscope

In the cases of these newly reported lawsuits, some docs that were originally listed as participating were dropped from the network. Patients were then faced with very high and unexpected medical bills from the newly out-of-network docs. Some enrollees sued the insurance companies claiming that the carriers failed to let them know that the docs were no longer participating.

For some, narrow networks can be the right choice, e.g. those who focus on monthly premiums above all else. While we believe that to be true, we’ll continue to bang the drum loudly that before selecting a narrow network plan, buyers need to do their homework. Know who is in the network and re-confirm participation before seeking care whenever possible.

Read Consumer Group Sues 2 More Calif. Plans Over Narrow Networks from The KHN Blog.

What’s the best combination of cost and care? Picking the right DOC still trumps all.

Last week I wrote about improving healthcare literacy. It’s an important and worthy goal. However, I always juxtapose this with something a highly respected physician colleague and friend said to me a few years back.  It really resonated with me back then and still does today.

He said that the push for improving the public’s health literacy and increased consumerism is good. The more knowledgeable people can become about their healthcare the better.  However, he also cautioned that the expectations of predicted great gains in cost savings and improved system efficiency from increased consumer knowledge were a bit unrealistic. They needed to be tempered.  Healthcare is so dynamic and so complex that as a physician he had to really work hard to stay on top of best practices, new developments in medicine, the cost and outcome implications of various types of treatment, etc. His point was that if he, as an experienced physician with years of training and treating patients had to work so hard to stay on top of the latest developments and trends, then it is unrealistic to expect that consumers with day jobs and no medical training at all could understand the complexities of our healthcare system.

woman handshaking with doctor after checkup

We know from years of analyzing data and our experience that the most experienced doctors with good teams around them deliver the best possible outcomes – clinical, functional and financial.

So I think the best bet – whether it’s you, your family members, or your employees – is still to do your homework and choose the best and most experienced doctors around.

Last week’s post in case you missed it…

 Health Insurance Literacy: Too Complex For Some?

Health Insurance Literacy: Too Complex for Some?

We can all agree that our healthcare system is difficult to understand. Have you considered the confusion for people who have never had health insurance, or perhaps have not had it for a really long time? According to Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, health insurance literacy is something that we as a society should work to improve. Here are some key points regarding the new insurance marketplace and ACA that Altman asks us to consider:

  • 37% of enrollees don’t know the amount of their deductible
  • only 46% of enrollees say they are getting a subsidy, when the official numbers indicate 85% are actually getting them
  • many enrolled have no understanding of basic insurance terms like premium, deductible, copayment, coinsurance, maximum annual out-of-pocket spending, provider network, covered services, annual limits on services or excluded services
  • people with lower incomes are less likely to understand the key elements of insurance (the people who need coverage the most understand it the least)

confusedamericans-randdotorg

Altman also points out that people gaining new coverage are also expected to understand the intricacies of provider networks in the plans they choose, particularly if they have a health problem requiring specialty care. Otherwise, they’ll face high out-of-pocket costs when they visit out of network provider specialists. Understanding how drug coverage works is also important when dealing with tiers. Most of us understand that brand-name drugs cost much more than generics — but what about the folks who don’t know that? We all have a role to play to improve health insurance literacy. Unfortunately, as Altman points out in his article that appeared recently on WSJ’s Washington Wire, A Perilous Gap in Health Insurance Literacy, many of us get tested on our knowledge every time we access our health care plan.

Here are two info graphics that can help you get started with improving the health insurance literacy of the people you know:

We are the 90 by CommunicateHealth.com

The Facts about Health Literacy by Healthcare IT News

 

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