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Group for independent docs creates Pa. chapter

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Concerned about the growing economic clout of hospitals, a national group representing independent physicians has formed a Pennsylvania chapter.

Founded in 2013, the Association of Independent Doctors has been active in fighting hospital mergers. It filed a friend-of-the-court brief in 2016 opposing the merger – ultimately abandoned – between Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and PinnacleHealth System, which eventually went on to affiliate with Pittsburgh-based UPMC.

The Pennsylvania chapter is the sixth for the association, which is based in Winter Park, Fla. It has about 1,000 members in 33 states, including at least 15 in Pennsylvania, the minimum threshold for forming a chapter.

Traditional medical societies and associations represent a range of physicians, including those employed directly by hospitals, as well as academics and researchers, said Marni Jameson Carey, the association’s executive director. Independent physicians need an entity representing solely their interests.

Among other issues, independent doctors are concerned about preserving their access to hospitals. As they consolidate and employ more doctors, hospitals may increasingly favor the doctors they employ directly, she suggested.

"This is the only group in America offering a national voice, a collective voice for independent doctors, speaking about and doing things about this, and we’re working at it full time," Jameson Carey said.

A spokesman for the Harrisburg-based Pennsylvania Medical Society noted that it offers programs for both independent and employed physicians.

"Specific to independent physicians, our newly formed Care Centered Collaborative is making progress in helping independent practices stay independent,” the spokesman, Chuck Moran, wrote in an email. The collaborative was launched in April 2017. 

A spokeswoman for The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, also based in Harrisburg, said it has become aware of the Association of Independent Doctors.

"At this point they’re welcome to have their platform to discuss those issues and we’ll keep an eye on it," said the spokeswoman, Rachel Moore.

The Pennsylvania chapter formed, in part, in response to a pending merger between two hospital systems in the Lehigh Valley, Blue Mountain Health System in Carbon County and St. Luke’s University Health Network, based in Bethlehem.

"Forming a chapter of AID will help us ensure that consolidation doesn’t completely wipe out independent doctors, which have been proven to offer the most cost-effective care to patients," Dr. Anthony Dippolito, a surgeon from Bethlehem, said in a statement.

The association also has chapters in California, Florida, New England (Maine and Vermont), South Carolina and Texas.

In addition to resisting hospital consolidation, the association also is fighting for greater transparency in health care pricing and for reimbursement policies that ensure a level playing field for independent physicians.

"We’re a trade association that’s building a base to provide a voice for independent doctors without time or resources to do this on their own," Jameson Carey said.

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Joel Berg

Joel Berg

Joel Berg is editor of the Central Penn Business Journal. Born in Philadelphia, raised in Northern Virginia and now living in York, he's a graduate of Franklin & Marshall College and the University of Maryland. Have a question or story idea? Email him at jberg@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JoelBYorkPa.

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