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This is Obama’s explanation for why you might not get to keep your doctor

(Photo by Jewel SamadJ/AFP/Getty Images

During the health care debate, President Barack Obama said people can keep their doctor if they wanted. Now he’s explaining why that might not be the case.

Don’t blame his health care law, Obama suggested in a Friday interview with WebMD. He said it comes down to narrowing provider networks, a health care trend that predates Obamacare.

Here’s how Obama described it this morning:

If you’re in the middle of life-saving treatment with a particular doctor, then we will work to make sure that you can keep that treatment and not shift. But for the average person, for many folks who don’t have health insurance initially, they’re going to have to make some choices. They might have to end up switching doctors in part because they’re saving money. But that’s true if your employer suddenly decides this network is going to give you a better deal. ‘We think this is going to help keep premiums lower. You gotta use this doctor as opposed to this one.’

Even if your doctor is in a new Obamacare health plan, consumers are going to have to make a choice, Obama said. “You may find out that network is more expensive than another network, then you have to make choices in terms of what’s right for your family,” he said. “Do you want to save on costs, or do you want to save on convenience?”

Obama made the comments during a 30-minute interview as part of the White House’s Obamacare enrollment push. For obvious reasons, conservative media today have focused on Obama’s comments about keeping your doctor.

Obama faced huge political backlash over cancelled health policies late last year, forcing him to apologize for saying that people could absolutely keep their health plans if they liked them. The “keep it if you like it” promise earned Politifact’s “Lie of the Year,” and the controversy prompted the administration to exempt people with cancelled policies from the individual mandate for three years.

It’s true that provider networks were narrowing before the health care law. But it also looks like health plans shrunk networks in 2014 to keep costs down, according to data compiled by McKinsey and Co:

The issue of narrow networks has received a ton of attention during this first Obamacare enrollment period. The administration and state-run exchanges seemed to make a clear choice that it was more important to offer cheaper premiums in Obamacare’s first year instead of broader networks.

That could change for next year, though. The administration last month proposed boosting provider participation requirements for exchange networks. The feds are also poised to take on a larger role in reviewing provider networks.

In the same interview this morning, Obama preached patience with the health care law’s rollout.

“I think as the Affordable Care Act grows, and more and more people sign up, you may see insurance companies starting to add more doctors to their networks, putting more options on the table,” he said.




Jason Millman covers all things health policy, with a focus on Obamacare implementation. He previously covered health policy for Politico.



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