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Miami patients relying on expensive specialists

The Miami Herald, September 14, 2010

In a turn-around from previous studies, a research team is reporting that Miami area patients are using less, not more, of one medical service than the national average: primary care physicians.

After years of reports from the Dartmouth Atlas research group finding that Miami-Dade seniors see more specialists, get more tests and spend more time in intensive care than people in virtually every other part of the country, the researchers reported last week that the area's seniors are considerably less likely to see primary care doctors.

For Steve Ullmann, a health policy expert at the University of Miami, the recent finding reinforces what he already believed, that ``primary care keeps costs down.''

The data also confirms the beliefs of the policymakers who crafted the Obama healthcare reform act, which promotes primary care as a way of reducing America's healthcare costs, which are the highest in the world.

The Dartmouth report shows 64.9 percent of seniors in the Miami region had at least one visit a year to a primary care doctor from 2003 through 2007, compared to nationwide figure of 77.6. In every other Florida metropolitan market, seniors are more likely to get primary care than in Miami-Dade. In Broward, 75.5 percent have at least one visit a year. In Pensacola, Fort Myers and Sarasota, it's over 80 percent.