WESTERN HEALTH ADVANTAGE: To Partner With Golden State Docs
Western Health Advantage's pool of doctors will increase "dramatically" under a new deal with the Golden State Physicians Medical Group. The Sacramento Bee reports that the two groups have agreed to affiliate effective August 1, more than doubling Western Health's primary care physician pool from 125 doctors to 275 and adding another 300 specialists to the Sacramento-based nonprofit HMO's existing network of 250. "This is the first time that Western Health has enlarged its physician panel since we've been in operation," said interim CEO Garry Maisel. "That is wonderful news from the standpoint of our members. This gives us a lot of credibility in the market. We are much more competitive network-wise with all of the competitors," he added. Silas Ting, executive vice president of Golden State, said, "Golden State Physicians Medical Group appreciates the fact that [Western Health's] primary goal is to return control of health care to the providers and hospitals. In the end that means better health care for patients" (Chan, 7/13). The Sacramento Business Journal reports that the deal will give Golden State patients more choice and "access to expensive care at the UC-Davis Medical Center at the same fee level charged at other local hospitals in the joint venture."
The Sacramento Business Journal notes that Western Health is a "nonprofit joint venture among Mercy Healthcare Sacramento, the UC-Davis Health System and the NorthBay Healthcare System in Fairfield." The HMO serves 27,000 patients in Sacramento, Yolo and Solano counties. Golden State was formed two years ago by Ting and Dr. Sami Haddad, and "has become a player in both the private sector and Medicare managed care markets," the Business Journal reports. "We are a local, physician-driven, grassroots organization that I believe is the last hope of local doctors to take back control of medicine," said Ting. Most of the 510 doctors in the group "are Southeast Asian, but the group cares for an ethnically diverse selection of patients." Golden State serves about 5,000 patients across the state, half of them within the Sacramento area. While Western Health has lost $5 million since its startup, analysts say its 27,000 members puts it "in a good position to grow." Dale Waters, a Sacramento insurance broker, said, "Western Health really understands its mission, and we write a lot of it to a certain type of client. It has a nice niche, mostly in the small group market" (Robertson, 7/13 issue).