Specialists become Obamacare casualty

As 2014 begins, many Americans will be confronted by the reality that they cannot, in fact, stay with trusted health care professionals of their choice.

Ask those covered by UnitedHealthcare about that one. UnitedHealthcare Medicare is the largest Medicare Advantage insurer in the country. In December, it notified network members of changes that would eliminate thousands of doctors from which patients can choose.

In Ohio alone, the State Medical Association estimates UnitedHeathcare has canceled contracts with hundreds of doctors beginning Jan. 1. Those dropped include most of the orthopedic surgeons in Dayton; the only hand specialty practice serving Cincinnati; a gastroenterology practice with 2,500 patients in the Cincinnati area and a practice of retina specialists serving 600 United Healthcare patients in central and southern Ohio.

Jessica Pappas, a UnitedHeathcare spokeswoman, said ”While these changes can be difficult for patients and their doctors, they are necessary to meet rising quality standards, slow the increase in health costs and sustain our plans in an era of Medicare Advantage funding cuts.” The Affordable Care Act phases in cuts to government payments for Medicare Advantage plans of $156 billion over 10 years.

Now the question now is how many other aspects of the Affordable Care Act will be contrary to what the public was promised.