SAN DIEGO: Will Scripps-Sharp Docs’ Merger Make a Difference?
San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Neil Morgan today asks whether the coming merger between ScrippsHealth and Sharp Community Medical Group "will feel the same old suffocating surge of ego and turf" that has beset other "old-guard mergers," or if they will actually manage to put the patient "first again in health care." Stephen Salisbury, who is consulting the 900-doctor merger, said, "In San Diego, our original intent was to align the incentives of patient and provider and bring better health care for less money. It hasn't happened." He said his goal is to make "physicians accountable for both the clinical and economic outcome of their work. Don't let some 25-year-old MBA dictate it from Hartford or L.A." Sharp President Ben Hourani agreed, saying, "The goal of this affiliation is to increase the doctors' opportunity to reassume their full-time historical role as patient advocates." Morgan notes that the "blur of change" is indicated by Scripps' hiring Joseph Sebastienelli, former president of Aetna, as its director. Stan Pappelbaum, president and CEO of Scripps, said, "Every insurance company has an army of medical directors, but virtually no other provider has an experienced insurance director." He hopes Sebastienelli can wring out "unnecessary costs extracted by the insurers ... and help us all with the problem of 700,000 San Diegans who have no health insurance." Morgan writes that if doctors and administrators of Scripps, Sharps and the other large providers in the city can "come together to cope with such unprecedented, industrywide issues ... the patient could finally be put first again in health care" (4/15).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.