When ObamaCare patients learn their deductible is so high they’re unlikely to get any reimbursement, they often wind up in places like the Denton, Texas Community Care Center.
"There are quite a few, and I saw another one today, where their deductibles are so elevated that they can't afford them," said Dr. Flippo Masciarelli, chief physician at the center, which was designed to treat indigent patients.
Robert Laszewski of Health Policy and Strategy Associates noted, "You're going to the doctor, you're paying (a) premium, and because of this really high deductible, you're not getting any benefits."
The administration pushed insurance companies to keep premiums low, but that also created high deductibles, about $5,000 per person for the least expensive plan, as well as narrow networks of providers.
But most people buy based only on premiums.
"They don't even look at what their deductible is going to be," said Dan Mendelson, CEO of Avalere Health. "They don't look at the cost of the medications that they're on. And they don't look at the...network that they have."
Masciarelli said,"one of the ladies we saw said she called eight primary care offices before she found us..." The rest would not treat people on her plan.
Rosemary Gibson of the Hastings Center and author of "The Battle over Health Care,” said many people find themselves in the same predicament. "People are scrambling to find a doctor who will see them, who will accept their insurance, who's in their network. And if they can't, where they end up going is the safety net, which includes community health centers."
If the doctor these patients find orders additional tests or treatment, even those with ObamaCare are sometimes forced to go without.
Masciarelli said patients are honest about their problems. "They'll say you can't believe what this would cost me. I can't afford that. And they're trying to scrape together some money to get it done sometimes or, frankly, occasionally they'll say I'll just wait and see if things get worse."
That, he said, goes against the whole idea of preventive care, supposedly one of the advantages of ObamaCare, leaving many patients wondering what they're getting from the plan.
Health economist John Goodman said, "They go to community health centers because it's free or almost free and or very low charges. And that's why they're doing it. So they were coaxed to go into the ObamaCare system, they're paying premiums over there. And now they're asking what did I get for my premium? I'm having to go outside the system to get health care."
Masciarelli agreed. "We do get asked that question at times, yes, wondering you know, I have this product. I can't even use it. "
Millions signed up after the president said premiums would be less than their monthly cell phone bill. But now, even those the law was most designed to help still must pay for their own care.
That may explain why the health care act remains unpopular.The latest Fox News Poll from October 25-27 found that by a 46-26 percent margin, more voters think ObamaCare “went too far” than “didn’t go far enough.”
It also is why so many Republicans have mentioned it in their campaign ads, with one source saying it was the leading topic in mid-October, with Republicans running 12,000 ads on health care.