Guest view: Insurance dispute puts quality health care at risk

June 20, 2013 

Dramatic shifts in the health care landscape are creating challenges in communities across the country. Ours is no different. As a physician for Memorial Medical Group, I see the changes every day.

The population of the metro-east is expanding. Many patients are uninsured or underinsured, and many more are unhealthy or suffer from chronic conditions. What's more, baby boomers will be turning 65 at a rate of about 8,000 a day over the next 18 years, with roughly 80 percent of them suffering from at least one chronic condition.

The math is simple. To serve more patients, we need more physicians. The problem is, we're short on physicians nationwide. And, the problem is even greater here in Southern Illinois, especially when you consider the issue of increasing malpractice costs, which have driven some doctors out of our community and to St. Louis.

At Memorial Hospital and Memorial Medical Group, we've done our best to get in front of these issues. We're focused on keeping talented, caring physicians close by so you receive the best care. As your neighbors, quality care close to home matters to us, too. More than 40 percent of Memorial's medical staff call the Belleville area home.

This year, Memorial Medical Group, a multi-specialty group, will welcome 10 more physicians to our community. Six new doctors will join us this summer. By year's end, we'll have approximately 76 physicians providing medical care and support in more than 20 specialties at 34 office locations -- from family medicine to neurosurgery.

Continuing to improve quality and access, however, will depend greatly on Memorial's financial stability. And here's why. It takes dedicated resources to retain the talented physicians we have and recruit others to serve alongside us.

Fair contracts with health insurers are one significant piece in this puzzle. In an ideal world, insurance premiums should guarantee access to high-quality, coordinated care.

Currently, UnitedHealthcare is not paying Memorial Medical Group doctors fairly for the care they provide to United members. This potentially threatens Memorial's ability to recruit and retain the medical staff our community needs. What's even more disappointing, United's action could jeopardize your access to the coordinated care you expect and deserve.

As a general rule, I don't get involved in business matters. My focus is on seeing patients and providing care. But United's behavior is out of line, and the risks are just too high. It's time for United to put patients before profits and pay Memorial fairly.

Hans Moosa, M.D., is medical director of Memorial Medical Group and practices as a board-certified vascular surgeon.

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