Why Can’t Every Doctor Take Every Insurance?

ahhhWhen I showed up at my doctor’s office in Manhattan on Monday, I was flustered and exhausted; I had already been to deepest Brooklyn and back (the end of the 2,5 line) to take Babygirl to her new pediatrician’s office. We hadn’t wanted to switch but had to because her old pediatrician, who we loved, doesn’t take her current insurance, which is called Health First Child Plus or something, who knows, they’re all combinations of nice-sounding but meaningless abstract words. Red Star Red Sword sounds like a funny name for an insurance company, doesn’t it, but is that any different, really, than Blue Cross Blue Shield? We’re just used to the latter.

I ranted a bit to my doctor, and her eyes flamed with indignation. “It’s ridiculous!” she said. “I would write about it if I were a writer, but I’m not, so you’ll have to, but everyone says the patient’s relationship with the doctor is a key part of health care. When you have to switch doctors just because you switch plans, everyone loses.”

I certainly lost. Though the new people were fine, I missed our old pediatrician, who had been seeing Babygirl since she was days old, knows her well, and is a brisk ten minute walk from our house. Going to a new place — a much larger, busier practice a much greater distance away — made Babygirl squirrelly, and it cost both Ben and me our morning. It required redundancies, like typing old info into a different computer and answering the same questions over and over, and introduced the possibility of errors with each transcription.

Why can’t doctors offices and hospital accept any accredited, official health insurance? That would solve the horrifying “Out of Network” problem. That’s how it works for cars, right? It’s not as if you can get hit by an SUV making a left turn and then find out that oops your insurance somehow doesn’t take theirs. There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to why our old pediatrician accepts one Obamacare policy but not another, or why the hospital closest to us accepts only these six and not those seven.

Seriously, what’s stopping government from mandating that every health provider must accept every legitimate insurance? Paperwork? Admin fees? Or is there a bigger problem I’m not seeing?

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