An attempt to propel legislation requiring health maintenance organizations to accept more black doctors into citywide health care plans stalled at a City Council hearing last night when a panel found what they called weaknesses in the bill.
But the bill, which charges that HMOs routinely discriminate against city physicians and dentists, will be revived, vowed City Council President-elect Lawrence A. Bell III, its sponsor.
The proposed legislation is being rushed through the health, law and other city departments to shore up the language so that its intent is better explained.
The bill, being reviewed by a panel of city agency heads, has the backing of all 19 council members.
HMO representatives oppose the bill. They say that requiring a specific number of black doctors to be placed on the panel is not necessarily an achievable goal. They also deny they discriminate against city doctors.
"The HMO industry is actively working with the minority provider community to address their concerns about access to HMO networks," said Pamela S. Metz, an attorney for the Maryland Association of Health Maintenance Organizations.
"We strongly believe that these voluntary efforts are more appropriate means to achieve the goals reflected in the City Council bill."
Billy D. Davis, who has been a West Baltimore dentist for 35 years, said he and several of his colleagues are targets of intense HMO scrutiny, have been removed from HMO plans or denied access.
Several doctors complained they are excluded because they tend to have patients who do not practice preventive care and therefore tend to have higher bills when they do receive treatment.
Though no number was specified in the bill, Mr. Bell said the number of black doctors in HMOs should roughly reflect the racial makeup of the city, which is about 65 percent black.
In Baltimore, 8 percent of the doctors are black and only 3 percent of the doctors on the health maintenance organizations are black.
Another hearing will be scheduled soon so the bill can get to the council for a vote before the last council meeting of this four-year session on Dec. 4, when all uncompleted legislation expires.