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Press Release: Michigan HMO Sets Limits on Patient Choices of Primary Care Physicians

HMO Requires Referrals to Internists to Control Costs

January 4, 2001

Washington, DC—The American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine (ACP-ASIM) vehemently opposes the HMO Care Choices' recent move to force members to stop using doctors of internal medicine as primary care physicians.

Plan members in the Muskegon, Michigan area who see an internist as their primary care physician received a notice from Care Choices that they must select a new primary care physician from among the HMO's family physicians and general practitioners. ACP-ASIM is concerned that this policy could potentially be expanded to cover the 188,000 HMO members throughout Michigan or to the parent organization the Trinity Healthcare Network.

ACP-ASIM has a longstanding policy of opposing managed care organizations attempts to restrict access to primary care physicians based solely upon specialty. Instead, the College supports a patients' right to choose the physician who is most capable of meeting their primary care needs, whether that provider is an internist, family physician, pediatrician or other specialist.

"Just as pediatricians specialize in meeting the needs of children, internists area of specialization is the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting adults," said ACP-ASIM's Director of Managed Care and Regulatory Affairs John P. Dumoulin. "Refusing to allow an adult patient to select a doctor who specializes in adult medicine is not appropriate."

Internists provide a broad range of medical services ranging from generalized adult medicine to subspecialties including geriatrics, infectious diseases and oncology. Adults suffering from multiple or chronic diseases often require the regular services of internists to manage their care.

"Health plans should not allow cost cutting measures to sever the physician-patient relationship," said Dumoulin. "The physician-patient bond is important in making sure that the patient is treated appropriately."

ACP-ASIM has expressed its concerns to Care Choices Vice President of Operations, Laurie Westfall. Copies of the letter are available to press upon request.

ACP-ASIM is the nation's largest medical specialty organization and the second largest physician group. Membership comprises more than 115,000 internal medicine physicians and medical students.

Contact:

David Edelson, ACP-ASIM Washington Office, 202-261-4575

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Page updated: 11-04-03

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