Summer Savings! Get unlimited digital access for 13 weeks for $13.

Readers Respond

News Opinion Readers Respond

Health insurance and doctor availability [Letter]

The statistics reported in the article, "Doctor appointment availability varies by insurance type" (April 7), were alarming and deserve reflection and pause by your readers and all Baltimoreans. The findings highlight a challenging issue for our health care system as more people enroll in insurance plans, both private and Medicaid, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. But this isn't a new issue and goes to the core of our societal notions of fairness.

The fact that there was such a wide gap between the ability of someone with private insurance to get an appointment with a new primary care doctor versus those with Medicaid (85 percent versus 58 percent) raises a red flag — both in terms of the numbers themselves and the potential assumption that high-quality doctors are often not giving appointments to Medicaid patients. At the same time, the idea that 85 percent is considered success at all is concerning. What good is commercial insurance if you can only find a doctor 85 percent of the time?

Unfortunately, in traditional fee-for-service medicine, doctors are often forced into the businessman's dilemma of trying to optimize the payment for their time by limiting appointments given to patients with lower paying insurance (Medicaid programs) and increasing the proportion of their time spent seeing patients with higher paying insurance plans.

We all deserve an approach that removes this type of misaligned incentive from care delivery and allows physicians to remain focused on patients and practicing medicine, not the burden of reimbursement.

We encourage everyone in the process of choosing a health plan, whether private insurance or a government-sponsored plan, to research whether or not physicians have "open panels," meaning they are accepting new patients. A truly open panel accepts all new patients irrespective of whether their insurance plan is provided by their employer, the government, or self-paid. What's more, getting an appointment is just half the battle. The other half is getting care when you need it. Ask if those open panel physicians provide same-day appointments and how long it takes to see a specialist. Ask if they are embracing the way people live today: Do they let you book an appointment by phone or online, do they email or offer video appointments? We believe it is about time the entire medical community begins to reduce barriers for people to receive high-quality care.

There may be many ways to address the challenges the article calls out. At Kaiser Permanente, we take great pride in our more than 1,000 high quality Mid-Atlantic physicians who focus on care. Every person deserves equal access to high quality care. It's simply the right thing to do.

Kim Horn and Dr. Bernadette Loftus, Rockville

The writers are, respectively, president of Kaiser Permanente Mid-Atlantic States and associate executive director of The Permanente Medical Group.

-
To respond to this letter, send an email to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • An incomplete report on payments to doctors from drug companies [Letter]

    It actually doesn't do much good to head up an article about payments to doctors by telling readers that a doctor invented a great new device and the company sent him a check for royalties ("Payments to doctors from drug companies, device makers revealed," Oct. 4).

  • Medicare deserves support

    Medicare deserves support

    Last Wednesday, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said that we ought to phase out Medicare and that the nation needs to "move to a new system that allows them to have something, because they're not going to have anything." Mr. Bush also praised Rep. Paul Ryan, the architect of a long-term...

  • Health exchange still a hassle

    Health exchange still a hassle

    I found The Sun's editorial, "Beyond the website" (Nov. 23), about how well the new-and-improved Maryland Health Connection had launched to be ironic and not in a good way. Perhaps you should have looked beyond the health insurance website itself to see if the system really had been improved from...

  • Md. health exchange still a problem

    Md. health exchange still a problem

    No matter what one hears, the Maryland Health Insurance Exchange is still a difficult system to navigate ("Give yourself the gift of quality health care," Dec. 3). I have spent the last week trying to create an account, but since my situation isn't typical, I am on my own. The insurance broker...

  • Give yourself the gift of quality health care

    Give yourself the gift of quality health care

    It's December and quickly creeping toward the next holiday season. We have had Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday. How about taking a step back and giving a gift to yourself?

  • Dems' clout dims

    Dems' clout dims

    Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Benjamin Cardin should realize it's not about the bacon; they were elected to protect the residents of Maryland from federal overreach.

  • Why don't Dems question Md.'s flawed health exchange rollout?

    Why don't Dems question Md.'s flawed health exchange rollout?

    Who are Gov. Martin O'Malley and Attorney General Doug Gansler trying to kid? The reason potential litigation over the flawed rollout of Maryland's health exchange is being postponed is the upcoming election. They are deeply afraid of what Noridian is going to claim about Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown's...

  • How can Ehrlich relish suffering of others?

    How can Ehrlich relish suffering of others?

    It saddens me to see the former congressman and governor of Maryland salivating with anticipation at the thought of depriving millions of Americans of decent health insurance by rolling back the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare is a varsity stinker," Nov. 23).

Comments
Loading

81°