Independent doctors warn of Kaiser’s ‘closed’ network

A group of Northern Colorado independent physician practices is circulating a letter to local business owners saying that Kaiser Permanente’s HMO plan puts “significant restrictions on physician and facility choice.”

“Most of our practices have contracts with all of the major insurance companies that have dominated the market,” the letter reads. “With rare exception, this has allowed our patients to maintain their choice of physicians regardless of the type of insurance coverage their employer chooses.”

The letter calls the Kaiser HMO a “dramatic departure from the norm.” 

Kaiser’s expanded presence in the market has created some concern among some independent physicians worried about losing patients and their ability to remain autonomous.

When Kaiser announced its plans to develop a physical presence in Northern Colorado, it also announced that it would partner with Banner Health, meaning that, aside from Kaiser clinics, Kaiser insurance would only be accepted at Banner hospitals and clinics.

Kaiser’s Fort Collins and Loveland clinics opened in October, and a third is planned for Greeley in 2013.

Kaiser has contracted with some local specialty physician groups, but many specialists that practice out of University of Colorado Health facilities have not been offered contracts, according to the letter.

In August, Kaiser told the Business Report that it had contracted with 400 physicians in the area and another 200 nurse practitioners, physicians’ assistants and other medical professionals.

But the letter, signed by 13 representatives of independent practices in Northern Colorado, says some patients with longstanding relations with primary care doctors will be forced to see a new physician.

It also notes patients in Fort Collins may be required to travel outside the area for specialty care or hospitalizations.
“Employers that choose very limited closed networks will have some very unhappy employees,” the doctors predicted in their letter. “We highly recommend talking with your employees about this matter before choosing a closed network option.”

The letter does not address Banner Health’s plans for a new medical complex in Fort Collins, announced this fall. Those plans include the possibility of a new hospital.


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Molly Armbrister covers real estate, banking and health care for the Northern Colorado Business Report. She can be reached at 970-232-3139, marmbrister@ncbr.com or twitter.com/MArmbristerNCBR
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