Obamacare plans aim to give everyone affordable access to healthcare. The question is, whether this means everyone can get access to the healthcare specialties they need.
The answer, according to one study, is not really.
Findings by the researchers published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) report that as much as 14 percent of all the health plans from the federal government's insurance exchange lack doctors in one or more specialty areas. Most common specialties missing were rheumatology, endocrinology and psychiatry.
This poses a problem that could translate into thousands of dollars in medical expenses that insurances are meant to prevent.
"If somebody needed to access psychiatrist or a rheumatologist...they would not be able to find an in-network specialist to care for them," said Stephen Dorner, a medical student who authored the study during his master's degree at Harvard.
Dorner and his team reviewed more than 130 healthcare plans in 34 states selling insurance through the federal marketplace. They found that 19 of the plans lacked in-network medical specialists in some areas.
They also searched for specialists within at least 50 miles of the most highly populated cities where each plan was sold and found that some plans lacked specialists close to their offered city and had to recommend doctors that are farther away.
"From where we were sitting, in our analysis, having no access to an in-network specialist didn't seem like sufficient access to us," Dorner said.
Dorner added that the study was designed to go easy on health plans. The researchers focused their efforts on the most population dense areas in the states involved in their study that had better access to doctors.
He said that other areas, particularly rural ones, could be lacking even more specialist access. The researchers also declined to name the states that had deficient healthcare plans.
The study is not without its critics, however. America's Health Insurance Plans Press Secretary, Clare Krusing, said that the researchers ignored state standards for time and distance requirements.
She added that they did not account for how many specialists are working in specific states, nor do they acknowledge that insurance plans have programs and processes to ensure patient access and coverage.
"The study's limitations speak for themselves, and account for the fact that the report presents a misleading picture of what's happening in the market today," she said.