114. How does a closed panel affect treatment?

Generally, a closed network reduces the quality of services available, and also significantly reduces ease of access to treatment. If a managed care company no longer accepts new providers, then appointments become more difficult to schedule if they increase the number of people being serviced by their network.

This also increases the chances that providers will have full schedules, and are less likely to have an available appointment when you want one. A closed panel discourages consumers from using managed care services, because it increases frustration in trying to locate a suitable provider.

More providers on a panel usually means a broader range of experience and specialties, which increases quality of care. Less providers on a panel can lead to longer waiting time to schedule appointments, having to travel a greater distance for appointments, and less options for change if you are dissatisfied with a provider.

Also, a closed panel reduces the chances of continuing with the same provider if your company changes plans. If your provider is not on the new panel, a closed panel will not allow him or her to join, so you will be forced to change treatment or discontinue reimbursement for treatment. In general, it is advantageous to subscribers if a managed care plan maintains an open panel, and readily accepts additional qualified providers.

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