PHYSICIAN RELATIONS: HMOs Reach Out To Black Doctors
With "health plans compet[ing] for more minority members ... the managed care industry is opening up to black physicians as never before," the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Dr. Clyde Oden of the American Association of Health Plans said that in the beginning, fledgling HMOs only took the "'low-hanging fruit' -- mainly white, middle-class workers and white physicians." Black doctors, who "generally see poorer, sicker patients who are more expensive to treat," were left off panels. Today, competition for "smaller firms with a higher proportion of minority workers ... requires diversity in both management and physician makeup." In addition, the move to Medicaid managed care has created a demand for black physicians because "HMOs want their physicians to better reflect the ethnicities of these new patients." Oden said, "This is perhaps the most exciting time in the history of medicine for African American physicians."
The Turning Tide
Currently, "only 3.6% of the nation's doctors are black, but they care for six times as many black patients as other physicians," said Jennifer Friday of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. Ron Knox, Kaiser Permanente's vice president of diversity, said, "'If we're going to grow (among minorities) we have to respect their culture and their differences. So there is a moral imperative' to recruit minority doctors." He continued, "But it's also good business, and that's probably a more important driver than the moral imperative" (Pugh, 2/25).