Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Specialists Paid to Aid the Uninsured

From the Palm Beach (FL) Post:

In an effort to alleviate the shortage of medical specialists handling emergency cases, JFK Medical Center in Atlantis has started paying doctors for treating uninsured emergency patients.

JFK is setting aside at least $800,000 a year to pay physicians under the program that started last month, said Dr. Ross Stone, an orthopedic surgeon and president of the JFK medical staff.

This gives us an incentive to cover the ER where otherwise we would lose money on indigent patients," he said.

While many South Florida hospitals have recently started paying hard-to-find specialists such as neurosurgeons and hand surgeons a daily stipend for being on call for emergencies, JFK is believed to be the first to directly reimburse doctors for treating uninsured emergency patients. JFK is owned by HCA Inc. (NYSE: HCA; $43.44), the largest hospital chain in the country.

JFK doctors are paid only if uninsured patients don't qualify for Medicaid, the Health Care District of Palm Beach County's Coordinated Care program or other government insurance programs. The doctors are paid a rate based on how much the federal Medicare program pays for the service.

Some doctors say the JFK reimbursement program is fairer than paying physicians a daily stipend for being on call. That's because a doctor who treats a patient with health insurance under that system gets to "double dip" — receive a payment from both the hospital and the patient.


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