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SoCal Hospitals Work On Way to Get Around Physician Employment Ban

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, May 17, 2010

Also opposed is the California Association of Health Plans, which worries that such an entity would unify efforts to contract with health insurance companies, giving them more control over reimbursement rates.

Lott estimates that about 20 to 35 of the 157 HASC-member hospitals would have to sign up for the pooled foundation model to work. And it may be difficult to get doctors to agree as well.

"They'd be giving the foundation a lot of control over their practice . . . of their billings and accounts receivable, and they may not want to give that up," Lott says.

California is one of only five states, including Ohio, Iowa, Texas, and Colorado that do not allow hospitals to directly employ physicians. Only county hospitals and academic medical centers are granted exceptions.

The fear is that hospitals that employ doctors can dictate to them what kind of care to provide patients based on economic factors, not medical need.

But without the ability to hire doctors, some smaller hospitals in remote parts of California are unable to provide residents in their area with oncologists, gastroenterologists, anesthesiologists, and many other specialist and primary care practitioners, forcing those patients to travel long distances to get care they need or go without.

A pilot program approved several years ago that allows six physicians to be hired is set to expire this year.

Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.

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