Despite challenges, docs cling to independence

"Nah, we're not for sale." At least for now, that's the consensus among physicians and leaders at Genesis Medical Associates Inc. of Ross, the largest independent practice in the North Hill, Pittsburgh area, with 17 primary care physicians in 10 locations, according to an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Like many independent practices across the country, Genesis has felt the pressure, amid rising overhead expenses and administrative burdens, to sell to its local hospital, where the physicians would become employees.

UPMC Passavant Hospital, at which Genesis physicians work extensively, offered the group an acquisition deal in late 2013.  UPMC was offering "a very significant" amount of money and guaranteed salaries for 10 years in return for the referral business, according to the group's executive director, Mark Kissinger.

Under this type of arrangement, an employed physician "theoretically" could make referrals based on that contractual requirement "rather than based on the physician's belief on who is the best quality," attorney Mike Cassidy, who heads the health law practice group for the Tucker Arensberg law firm, told the newspaper.

But what ultimately might sway the practice's decision will be the outcome of an ongoing disagreement between UPMC and Highmark health plans.

If the hospital and insurer don't reach a contract, many patients with Highmark insurance will seek care at Allegheny General Hospital instead of out-of-network UPMC Passavant, making it less convenient for UPMC doctors to see their hospitalized patients. Signing on with UPMC would eliminate that complication, the article noted.

To learn more:
- read the article