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Truth about Obamacare: Can you keep your doctor?

  • New exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act open Tuesday, October 1
  • Check to see if your doctor is included before choosing a plan
Truth about Obamacare: Can you keep your doctor?

Understanding the Obamacare exchanges

Understanding the Obamacare exchanges

Explainer: What is Obamacare?

Explainer: What is Obamacare?

The complicated new provisions of the Affordable Care Act -- or Obamacare, as it's being called -- which kicks in for individuals on January 1, 2014, is causing a lot of confusion among Americans regarding how the law impacts them directly and how it will change their current health care plan and health care services.

According to President Barack Obama in 2009: "First of all, if you've got health insurance, you like your doctor, you like your plan -- you can keep your doctor, you can keep your plan. Nobody is talking about taking that away from you." But the truth is, it actually depends your specific situation.

Question: Can you keep your current doctor?
Answer: Maybe

The president has been definitive about the fact that under Obamacare, Americans will be able to keep their doctor if they want to, but the truth is, it will depend on a variety of factors. First, a number of large companies are reassessing how they offer health coverage to their employees and dependents, due to higher costs and other factors. For example, UPS announced it would no longer cover spouses of non-union employees who will be eligible for health benefits from their own employers. This decision will impact about 15,000 spouses, who, as of January 1, 2014, will have to change insurance plans. That means they may not be able to keep their current doctor.

Other large employers, such as Home Depot and Trader Joe's, have announced they will drop part-time workers from their coverage. That means these people will have to purchase coverage through their state exchange and may not be able to keep the same doctors.

Some major unions, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers -- which originally signed on to health care reform -- now say many of their members may not be able to keep their current health care coverage under Obamacare. According to the IBEW, the new exchanges will benefit low-wage union members who don’t currently have employer-provided health insurance, but at the same time, the new law may harm many other union members who are already covered through union-affiliated multi-employer health trusts.

These unions are pushing the Obama administration to make changes to the law so that multi-employer plans are protected. These multi-employer plans allow small businesses to team up with other employers on health care coverage and pool the risks, reducing costs. The problem for these unions, though, is these plans are not eligible for federal subsidies, or an exemption, under the new health care law -- and that means the union workers might have to change their current health care plan beginning in 2014.

READ MORE: Clark Howard's guide to Obamacare

“It is a question of fairness,” says Edwin Hill, president of the IBEW. “Multi-employer plans are genuine health care success stories and they deserve the same federal support private insurance companies get.”

People who buy individual coverage will most likely have to get a new plan in the new marketplace, which means their coverage will change, and possibly their doctors will change, as well. Make sure you do your research and check out the details of your new plan to make sure the doctors you want are covered in your plan.

"Depending on the plan you choose in the marketplace, you may be able to keep your current doctor,”  a Health and Human Services official told CNN. "Different plans have different networks and providers...if staying with your current doctors is important to you, check to see if they are included before choosing a plan."

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