Despite helping reduce costs, are narrow networks the true way of the future?
It's time for a change. As limited provider choice in exchanges rises, and the need to track quality across the patient’s care delivery continuum creates a bigger impact on providers’ bottom lines, practices will need to find means to protect their revenue. This is forcing more and more provider organizations to develop preferred partner lists—another way of saying narrow networks.
There are two key groups impacted by this shift, and they seem to have different feelings about the pros and cons of narrow networks.
- Patient benefits: The healthcare industry can expect to see more narrowing as time goes on. This is, in part, thanks to the benefits to healthcare consumers. Narrow networks offer cheaper premiums—on average, those premiums are 17 percent less than plans with broader networks.[i] In fact, nearly 70 percent of the lowest priced plans are built around narrow networks, ultra narrow networks, and tiered narrow networks.[ii] The downside, though, is higher prices for out-of-network costs—which were, on average, 300 percent higher than the average Medicare rates for 97 common medical procedures.[iii]
- Provider concerns: This trend is causing some anxiety amongst providers, and for a couple of different reasons. Providers’ ability to retain their patients may be challenged if their system of narrow networks is not clearly defined. In addition, providers may not have a clear understanding of how their participation or performance will be measured—or what may cause them not to be invited to participate in an ultra-narrow network.