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Directly undercutting President Obama’s oft-repeated promise – “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” – a health exchange navigator in Colorado told a woman with a cancelled health plan she’ll pay more in monthly premiums to continue seeing her long-time physician. At least $140 more a month – or $1,680 a year.
Rebecca Ryan of Fort Collins recorded the 24 minute phone call with a heath exchange phone representative, in which Ryan directly asked if she was being “penalized” for wanting to keep her doctor.
“Yes,” the navigator responded, without qualification.
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Ryan previously paid a premium of $375 a month from “CoverColorado,” a government-run plan intended to provide insurance for people with pre-existing conditions. However, in the wake of the new rules from the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Cover Colorado and all of its nearly 14.000 plans were terminated.
Replacing her plan with the least expensive option through the “Connect for Health Colorado” site could save Ryan $15 a month, but would also require her to switch doctors.
However, choosing a plan that allows her to continue seeing her doctor, who has treated her for approximately the last nine years, will cost her $515 a month, $140 more than Ryan was previously paying.
With her “CoverColorado” plan cancelled – and no kind of “renewal” possible at all – Ryan made the call this March to “Connect for Health Colorado” to get assistance in generating plan options from the website. She shared the recording of her call with CompleteColorado.com:
Ryan: So, the lowest monthly premium is, um, way higher than I was paying before and I thought this was supposed to be lower.
Rep: Now this could be way higher if it’s a doctor, if you have a doctor that’s (??) in there. So, often, if you have a doctor that you work with, you can be picking plans that are higher, if that doctor is a more specialized doctor.
Ryan: She’s just a general family doctor. She’s not specialized.
Several minutes later in the call, the question came up again. As Ryan was shopping for dental plans, the phone rep reminded Ryan to remove her doctor of choice as a search filter so Ryan could see more potential results.
Ryan: Do I have to go through the whole filter thing again?
Rep: Is your doctor listed when you hit ‘Find a Dental Plan’?
Ryan: I don’t know why she would be. She’s not a dentist.
Rep: But she was put in as a provider? (pause)
Ryan: Ok, my hospital was listed too, so I removed them both [as search filters]. However, what if I want to keep her? I’ve been with her a long time, and I don’t want a different doctor.
Rep: If you want to keep her then you’re looking to pay the 515 dollars a month.
Ryan: So they’re going to penalize me because I want to keep my doctor?
Ryan says the deductibles and out-of-pocket costs are almost similar between the plan she had and the two offered as comparisons from the health exchange. But the registered Republican who opposes the ACA also says losing a doctor shouldn’t be taken lightly.
“She’s such a rarity as doctors go,” Ryan says. “It’s obvious that she has the concern and compassion we all crave in a doctor. Her motivation isn’t about money at all. She wants to treat the whole person. She’s such a special lady and I would like to keep her as my doctor forever because of this. A successful doctor-patient relationship takes a tremendous amount of trust. That is built over time. If I am forced to just take any doctor they choose, that trust relationship will be gone.”
As of publication Monday evening, March 24, “Connect for Health Colorado” had not responded to a request for comment.
The entire call can be heard in the clip below:
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