CHINESE HOSPITAL: Combining Mission and Managed Care
As one of only two independent hospitals left in San Francisco, Chinese Hospital maintains its mission to provide access to many of the city's Chinatown residents despite the challenges of managed care, American Medical News reports. Dr. Edward Chow, executive director of the Chinese Community Health Care Association, said, "Chinese Hospital was started in response, as we are still in response, to the issue of access." The hospital was founded in 1925 by 15 Chinese service organizations to replace a dispensary that was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake. The original hospital was replaced with a new facility in 1979. In 1986, after being excluded from the panels of many HMOs entering the market, administrators formed the Chinese Community Health Plan with the aid of Blue Shield of California, "as an alternative to patients who wanted to continue receiving care within the Chinese health system." Under the plan, doctors and the hospital evenly split the surplus from their combined capitation payments, and use that money to fund outreach programs in the community, such as bilingual health education classes held at the Chinese Community Health Resource Center. The health plan currently has 6,000 members, the majority of whom are garment factory workers. In addition, the plan acts as a third-party administrator for four outside health plans, serving 9,000 members. American Medical News notes that part of the success of the health plan is its ability to incorporate cultural nuances important to its members. According to Kwong Wong, the plan's administrator, "We have a little office at the hospital where people walk in. They don't like to mail their premiums, they like to bring the money, cash. It's a cultural difference, and we want to serve them better." These efforts may account for the low member-turnover rate, a key to the plan's financial success -- it has run in the black since 1987. Although some feel the hospital's success has gone largely unnoticed, officials take pride in their accomplishments. Dr. Rolland Lowe, past president of the California Medical Association and a general surgeon in Chinatown for nearly four decades, states, "We are proud of what we're doing, and then people just dismiss it as just a uniqueness of the Chinese. We think the uniqueness is only that we make a commitment to the community" (Foubister, 8/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.