New Health Plan Report Disputes Findings of 1999 CMA Report
Responding to a 1999 report from the California Medical Association that blamed "low payments" from health plans for "widespread bankruptcies and closures of physician groups," the California Association of Health Plans has released a new report to state lawmakers disputing those claims, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. The medical association's report stated that a 35% decline in doctors' monthly payments has caused 90% of doctors groups to "confront financial failures." Furthermore, the report found that an average of 30 medical groups has shut down each year for the previous three years. In contrast, the health plan group's new report says that since 1998, only 19 physician groups filed for bankruptcy and 13 groups closed because of financial problems. The health plan group's report states that health plans pay doctors groups between $30 and $50 per month, compared with the $29 to $36 per month reported by the medical association. In addition, the health plan group's report says California spends 40 cents of every health care dollar on physicians, compared to a 29 cent national average. John Schneider, the health plan group's director of research and the author of the report, said that the report serves as a "first step toward adding perspective to the medical association's" report. But the medical association called the HMO report "misguided." Dr. Jack Lewin, the CEO of teh CMA, said, "What the (health plan association) doesn't realize is that they're going to be blamed as the perpetrators. They've been championing the idea that they've been keeping costs down, but they've been doing so at our collective expense" (Fong, San Diego Union-Tribune, 3/20).
In related news, Dr. Frank Staggers, head of the urology division in the surgery department in Oakland's Highland Hospital, has been elected president of the California Medical Association, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Staggers has been a member of the association's board of trustees since 1993 and has held several other positions within the association. During his one-year term as president, Staggers will serve as the group's lead spokesperson and will represent the group in lobbying efforts (Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/20).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.