Simon F. Haeder, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Political Science, West Virginia University
With a national shortage of healthcare providers and insurance companies continually seeking to contain costs, it’s no secret that networks are shrinking. And as more patients opt into Affordable Care Act plans, there’s a lot of chatter about whether patients with marketplace plans (most of whom are lower income and rely on subsidies) face restricted access to care.
But when it comes to actually comparing these new marketplace plans to traditional commercial plans, there’s not much in the way of data. So, my colleagues and I decided to conduct a secret shopper-style survey of 743 primary care providers throughout California.
Our findings were revealing. While there was little difference between commercial and marketplace plans, both performed poorly. Less than 30% of patients—for both plans—were able to get appointments with the primary providers of their choice.
The research proved insurance coverage doesn’t necessarily guarantee timely access to care. In order for our healthcare system to improve, we must start giving patients accurate information and adequate networks so they can access the care they need and deserve.