Patients like a choice of healthcare providers but never are willing to pay much for that opportunity. Recently, insurance companies have taken advantage of shrinking the available panel of physicians to select those that are both less expensive and provide higher quality. The higher quality part is obviously secondary.
Electa Draper of the Denver Post reported 7/27/14 “Coloradans could lose medical choices, but save money”. The essence of the article was a report on the United Healthcare (UHC) plan to “narrow the panel” of available physicians. $100 per month is reported as the possible savings for subscribers to the plan.
UHC is the largest insurance carrier in the US. This national strategy to “narrow the panel” will save someone some money; but, the amount of leverage this gives to quality is nebulous. This huge insurance company could raise US healthcare quality to number 25 from number 26 in the world — sadly they don’t have much ambition for international competition.
The lack of transparency is striking:
- will all the cost savings be passed on to the consumer?
- will CEO Stephen Hemsley’s salary go higher than $106 milllion?
- physicians seem easy to squeeze for money; what about drug companies, device makers and hospitals?
- what quality measures cause physicians to be excluded?
- forcing patients to change doctors as employers change insurance plans is common practice — when will this stop?
- will UHC or any insurance company saying they intend to improve quality also reduce errors? Will they stand shoulder to shoulder with physicians who are named in medical error suits?
- will UHC reduce patient waiting times?
- will UHC drop Medicare patients and stick with younger healthier patients?