Patient Loads Jump for Ventura County Providers
Kaiser Permanente's acquisition of Buenaventura Medical Group in Ventura County at the start of this year has put a strain on a local hospital and physician practices, the Ventura County Star reports.
About 50%, or 30,000, of BMG's patients opted not to enroll in a Kaiser plan since the HMO acquired the medical group on Jan. 1, 2007, and Community Memorial Hospital and other area physician groups are working to accommodate the influx of new patients.
Jim Malone, former CEO of BMG and now a Kaiser Foundation Health Plan executive, said many patients lost their coverage because their employers do not offer Kaiser coverage. Malone said other patients voluntarily dropped coverage either because their physician left the network or they did not want an HMO plan.
About 45 of BMG's 60 physicians remained in the expanded network. Kaiser maintains a lower patient load for its physicians, but out-of-network physicians have experienced a surge in patients, according to the Star.
Richard Reisman, medical director of CMH, said the hospital's health clinics had a 17% increase in patients during the three months following the merger, while visits to the health system's urgent care centers jumped by 37%.
Reisman attributed the surge in urgent care visits to patients who were unable to obtain an appointment with their primary physician. He added that the hospital has hired an additional physician and three physician extenders to alleviate the increased patient load.
Kaiser earlier this month signed a contract extension through 2008 with CMH for hospital services for its policyholders. Kaiser officials also hope to provide more educational classes.
Malone says the HMO is "hoping more employers will look at Kaiser and see what it can offer" to the region (Klampe, Ventura County Star, 4/25).