It is early with regard to the healthcare exchange plans and yet practices across the country are already feeling the impact. It’s not just consumers who have experienced problems while attempting to sign up for the exchange plans on the healthcare.gov website; providers too are dealing with major headaches as they navigate through the first couple of months of this new system.
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Let me explain. The insurance companies created something called “narrow networks” within their full network of providers. What that means is that only a subset of physicians within any given insurance company’s network “qualified” for participation in the exchange plans. The result is that while some physicians got rolled into these plans, others were excluded, even though they participate in some of the other products with that particular insurance company. For example, a physician could be participating with an HMO and a PPO-type product, but be excluded from the exchange product. This has created a dilemma for many practices. On the one hand, it means no new business coming in from new exchange members. On the other hand, it also means scrambling to hold onto existing patients that have switched to these new, lower-priced health insurance products.