Sonoma County Health Officials Discuss Problems, Future of Managed Care at Conference
The managed care system in Sonoma County is facing a questionable future, according to health care officials meeting at an annual conference sponsored by the North Bay Business Journal, the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat reports. Margaret Sabin, CEO of Sutter Health's Marin General and Novato Community hospitals, said that HMOs face "increasing dissatisfaction on two fronts" -- patients who are "unhappy" with increasing copays and premiums and physicians who are concerned about low reimbursements. The "discontent" with managed care is prompting health care managers to examine ways to "split responsibility for supporting the region's health care system among physicians, insurers, patients and employers," the Press-Democrat reports. Sabin said, "The focus is not so much on shifting costs, but on sharing burdens."
At the conference, two experts from health organizations in Colorado and Minnesota made presentations on managed care alternatives, both agreeing that increasing premiums will only offer a "temporar[y]" solution to the system's financing problems. Thomas Rockers, CEO of Denver-based business coalition The Alliance and former head of a health care system in Minneapolis, Minn., said the health care system will likely move "back to the future" with a return to the fee-for-service system of "deductibles in the $3,000 to $5,000 range, office visit co-pays and catastrophic insurance." Edwin Pittaway, health benefits consultant for Colorado Benefits Group, said he foresees a system of "expensive and customized health plans that allow greater flexibility in alternative choices," including acupuncture, nutrition counseling and chiropractic care. Pittaway and Rockers agreed that more employers are also expressing interest in directly contracting with physicians for medical services paid on a fee-for-service basis (Rose, Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, 11/16).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.