VENTURA COUNTY: Patients in Limbo After Medical Group Collapses
In some "good news" for patients who were left without physicians after Family Health Care Medical Group collapsed this week, four of the group's doctors have been hired by another physician group and will be able to see their FHCMG patients, the Los Angeles Times reports. However, it remains "unclear" whether the majority of the medical group's 135,000 patients will be forced to find new doctors or switch insurers if they want to continue seeing current their doctors. FHCMG, Ventura County's largest medical group, has an estimated $6 million debt and is expected to file for bankruptcy today. While FHCMG officials maintain that the state and insurers "should share the blame" for the group's collapse, at least one local physician, Dr. Alan Mintz, said that "the blame lies squarely on Family Health Care's management," the Los Angeles Times reports. The Department of Managed Health Care has been "urging" insurers over the next 90 days to "do whatever it takes to keep patients seeing their regular doctors."
Where Will the Patients Go?
Four of the group's physicians, Drs. Albert Reeves, Tara Yawata, Kevin Nishimori and Marcel Golberg, were hired by the Buenaventura Medical Group and are expected to begin working there next week. Under their existing insurance plans, those physicians' patients can continue seeing them. During a news conference yesterday, FHCMG officials added that 2,000 "high-risk" patients can continue to receive care from their regular doctors. Furthermore, at least 23 of the group's 45 staff doctors who lost their jobs plan to organize in four separate clinics in Simi Valley that could open as soon as Monday. The clinics, which will focus on family practice, obstetrics, pediatrics and internal medicine, want insurers to pay them on a fee-for-service basis, unlike the capitated rate FHCMG had received. FHCMG Medical Director Dr. George Dichter cautioned that Blue Cross of California, Health Net and other Family Health Care-affiliated insurers "had not immediately agreed to restructure their payment plans simply to keep patients and doctors together." The Times reports that it also is "unclear" what will happen to the 85,000 patients who saw 850 primary care and specialty care physicians contracted with the medical group (Talev/Anderson, Los Angeles Times, 10/19).