SONOMA COUNTY: Fourth Medical Group Abandons Managed Care
Marking the fourth breakup of a Sonoma County medical group in the last year, 12 primary care physicians in the Northern California Medical Associates announced Friday that they will join Sutter Medical Group, the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat reports. Affecting about 9,800 patients, the "realignment" is "another sign of the ongoing consolidation of medical care in Sonoma County" and increases Sutter's presence in the county. Citing the "now-familiar refrain" of increasing prescription drug costs, expensive medical procedures and rising service demands by baby boomers, NCMA decided to abandon its managed care program. NCMA joins Healdsburg Medical Group, Redwood Empire Medical Group and Specialty Physicians Alliance as groups that have "succumbed" to the financial strains of managed care. However, unlike the other three groups, NCMA will not shut down its primary care services, instead shifting them to Sutter. NCMA also will continue business for its specialists and direct contracting. NCMA President Robert Stewart said, "This move will give our managed care patients expanded choice and improved access to specialists." Health Plan of the Redwoods, which ensures nearly 80% of the patients affected by the NCMA restructuring, notified its members last week that their primary care physicians would be affiliated with Sutter Medical Group starting Oct. 1. HPR's CMO Joseph Cook said, "We feel the consolidation has a number of advantages: Members gain a broader specialist panel, and the medical groups gain experienced, financially strong partners" (Rose, 9/9).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.