Tuesday, June 10, 2014


We have to get past this idea that free choice of physician is some kind of inalienable right.
When we move to another town far away we change physicians.  When our physicians die or retire, we change.  If we are in an HMO and our physician goes to work somewhere else, we change.  When wife Marilyn got her second knee, the surgeon who did the first one was no longer doing them and referred her to another one.  In none of those cases do we complain.
But if an insurance company asks us to change, we cry ‘foul.’  And “choice” remains a favorite word for inclusion in health insurance advertisements.
All of that was brought to mind by an article in the June 7 issue of The Boston Globe titled Mass. Seniors lose choices on doctors.  It seems that UnitedHealthcare has announced its intention to remove up to 700 physicians from the Massachusetts panel of 16,800 that it has offered to subscribers of its Medicare Advantage health insurance plans.
The rather long article discussed various aspects of the issue, but on the subject of why UnitedHealthcare would risk alienating a group of its subscribers by making them change physicians, it only quoted the company as saying it was doing it to reduce cost and, perhaps, improve quality. 
One has to assume that the doctors being dropped were practicing in a way that was unusually costly and, perhaps, not of the best quality.
Maybe people ought to appreciate learning that the physicians they have been using are not very good, but that is a lot to ask.  It would be better if they got the information from some source other than their insurance companies, but at present that seems to be the main one.

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