Why narrow networks matter in hurricanes...
Sure, there are things that matter more than health insurance when you're in the path of a hurricane — like survival. But David Anderson, a former health insurance company official who writes the Balloon Juice blog, points out why narrow provider networks could be a big problem for people who evacuated to get away from Hurricane Harvey:
- If someone who evacuated needs urgent care, like treatment for an asthma attack or an ongoing mental health condition, they may be hundreds of miles away from any doctor or clinic that's in their network.
- And if they go to an out-of-network provider, which may be their only choice, they could be stuck with higher bills.
What to do: They should call their insurance company ahead of time and get a pre-authorization to go to an out-of-network provider. And they can point to this advisory from the Texas Department of Insurance, which seems to be trying to prevent exactly this kind of problem.
Key quote: "Under these circumstances, it is the opinion of the Texas Department of Insurance that all health insurance companies and health maintenance organizations should waive penalties and restrictions ... [for] necessary emergency and nonemergency health and dental services out-of-network as a result of the disaster."
Why it matters: It may seem like an easy problem to solve, but nothing is easy with health insurance bureaucracies — even for people who know how the system works. (Trust me on this.) If you work for a health insurer, please be nice to stressed-out evacuees.