Broken promise? Obamacare customers in Houston lose physician choice

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Americans heard it early and often in the battle over Obamacare - a pledge from the President.

"If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor," said Obama.

But in the greater Houston area those who buy coverage under the Affordable Care Act for 2016 are facing a new and troubling restriction.

"If you have a relationship with a doctor who understands your medical condition, that you can't preserve anymore. That's gone," said Seth Chandler of the University of Houston Law Center.

That's because no insurer engaged in Obamacare here is willing to offer coverage from a "preferred provider organization". These PPO's allow patients to pick the doctors and hospitals they prefer. Chandler says under Affordable Care Act these plans drew lots of customers with very expensive pre-existing medical conditions and not near enough folks who were basically healthy.

The result was financially unsustainable

"Rather than raise their prices quite substantially to compensate they just decided to call it quits. It is absolutely a broken promise and a very forseeably broken promise," said Chandler.

Local supporters of the Affordable Care Act say the loss of choice here is unfortunate, but reversible as enrollment grows.

"In Texas we have the highest number and largest rate of uninsured. We are going to struggle until that number is greatly diminished and we have a state that's not participating and not helping with lowering the number of the uninsured," said Tiffany Hogue of the Texas Organizing Project.

Claiming it would be fiscally irresponsible, Texas lawmakers have rejected billions of dollars worth of federal aid to expand ACA coverage to the state's poor though Medicaid.

Hogue says it's that decision more than anything that's suppressed enrollment and kept ACA customers from gaining access to plans that insure choice of physician.