The New York Times has certainly given the Affordable Care Act itsdue.

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Its articles and analyses have highlighted the millions who havegained coverage from the landmark law, particularly in states thatagreed to expand Medicaideligibility.

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But the Gray Lady has also reported extensively on a naggingissue: ACA coverage just isn’t that good. At least not compared towhat Americans who are accustomed to generous employer-sponsored healthinsurance might expect.

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“(T)he reality is that a typical Obamacare plan looks more likeMedicaid, only with a high deductible,” writes Margot Sanger-Katz,a blogger for The Times’s Upshot blog.

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In addition to deductibles that many customers have said wouldbankrupt them in the event of an emergency, many ACA plans areextremely narrow networks that only include a small number ofnearby physicians, specialists and hospitals.

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There are more comprehensive plans, but they cost more. And atleast one study by the Department of Health and Human Services hasshowed that the first priority of ACA customers is cost, notquality of coverage.

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That’s one of the reasons that UnitedHealth struggled more thanother insurers to turn a profit on the ACA marketplace. Itsproducts typically were more expensive and provided broadernetworks than the low-cost plans that proved mostpopular.

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There was an indication in 2015 that the trend was changing.Roughly 50 percent of marketplace customers chose the cheapest planavailable, compared to two-thirds in 2014, the first year of thelaw’s implementation.

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What is unclear, notes Sanger-Katz, is whether the Obamacaretrend towards narrow networks is good or bad for patients. Onerecent study suggested that those with such plans spent less onhealth and were no more likely to experience negative healthoutcomes.

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There are certainly some medical professionals who have voicedconcern, however. Although uncompensated emergency room visits havedeclined since the law’s implementation, a survey of emergency room physicians showed thatmany reported ER visits from those with narrow network healthplans, suggesting they were coming to the ER because they could notfind a nearby physician covered by their insurance.

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