Friday, October 8, 2010

Preventing You From Spending Your Own Money

Dr. Eric Novack discusses how the "no cost sharing" provision in ObamaCare will drastically curtain your ability to spend your own money for some legal health services.

Read his 9/23/2010 piece, "ObamaCare: The Used Car Contract of Lawmaking".

(Dr. Novack is the author of the Arizona Health Care Freedom Act, which is a 2010 ballot initiative similar to Colorado's Amendment 63.)

Update: Some readers commenting on Dr. Novack's piece have asked about the "no cost sharing" rule and whether that amounts to banning spending your own money (as opposed to merely obliging insurers to provide certain services "for free".

Here's something I wrote earlier on this topic, from "ObamaCare: Tightening the Noose Around Private Health Care":
Similar restrictions against "cost-sharing" or out-of-pocket spending are already established policy for Medicare -- the federal government’s "universal heath care" program for the elderly.

Under current federal law, if a doctor accepts Medicare patients (i.e., he is a "participating physician"), he must accept the payment set by Medicare. If the doctor can't make ends meet on the low Medicare fees, then that's his problem. Medicare rates are currently so low that many physician practices would go under if they had to rely solely on Medicare -- which is why many doctors currently limit the number of Medicare patients they are willing to accept.

But suppose a patient tells his doctor, "I know that Medicare doesn't pay you enough to cover your costs of performing the surgery which you and I both agree is necessary. I'll pay you extra in addition to Medicare to get it done."

By law, the physician cannot accept this offer. If he did, he could face stiff fines (or possibly jail) for illegal "cost-sharing." As long as he is a "participating physician" in Medicare, he may not accept any out-of-pocket money from his patients for covered Medicare services.
So a combination of "no cost sharing", pending government price controls, and physician exclusion from "qualified plans" if they accept money from patients creates the problem of patients being effectively prevented from spending their own money.

It's already the case for Medicare patients. As ObamaCare is implemented, this will likely affect millions of non-Medicare patients as well.