Doc group signs up two HMOs

"Austin Regional Independent Associates, an independent practice association newly formed by Austin Regional Clinic, has finalized agreements with MetraHealth and HMO Blue.

"Both health maintenance organizations will offer ARIA's network of primary care providers to their members by the end of 1996.

"ARIA is working out administrative details with both health plans and is negotiating with other local HMOs, including PCA Health Plans.

"Current patients of ARIA physicians will see few changes, but new patients who select either MetraHealth or HMO Blue Health plans in 1997 will have a larger group of primary care providers from which to select as a result of the agreement between ARIA and the HMOs.

"Steve Margolin, a physician with Austin Family Care Center, which has joined ARIA, says the group is excited about linking up with both MetraHealth and HMO Blue.

"'HMO Blue has had a PPO product and now is trying to shift to an HMO product,' Margolin says. ‘We feel MetraHealth has had a fairly good presence here for a number of years.'

"ARC formed ARIA in June. The IPA will start with 25 to 30 primary care physicians and grow to 150 to 200 over the next three years. ARC currently has about 78 primary care physicians. ARIA is expected to be fully operational by Sept. 1.

"ARIA will use management from Mediview, ARC's management service organization. Mediview's 30 employees will deal with the needs of the HMOs and their members, reducing paperwork and problems for physicians and patients.

"'What we are trying to do is simplify this for patients,' says Eric Weidmann, an ARIA physician.

"Relatively new to the Austin health care market, IPAs like ARIA enable solo and small group practices to pool their resources and obtain needed expertise while still maintaining their independent practices.

"Maurice Keathley, vice president of operations for HMO Blue in Central Texas, says the arrangement with ARIA will expand HMO Blue's physician offerings.

"'It will just provide more physician choice among our members,' Keathley says. ‘Those who pick an ARIA physician, their care will then be provided and managed by ARC and ARIA.'

"Ken Burdick, CEO of MetraHealth, says he has enjoyed working with ARC since the two companies signed a contract last February. He says he hopes to continue that relationship with ARIA.

"'We are excited about it and we see it as an extension of our agreement,' Burdick says. ‘It's entirely consistent with our strategy. Choice of physicians will continue to be a very important tenet of ours and this certainly goes in this direction.'

"ARIA has invited Austin's 400 primary care physicians to attend an informational session July 16. ARIA physicians will invite other primary care providers to ask questions and consider joining the growing IPA.

"A physician-owned IPA, ARIA will encourage all primary care physicians to become shareholders, but will allow physicians to affiliate on a non-ownership contractual basis as well. ARIA will develop a network of specialists and hospitals, and will contract with multiple HMOs and health plans to provide services to their members.

"So far, primary care practices that have agreed to join ARIA include Austin Family Care Center and South Austin Medical Clinic."

Source: July 1996 Austin Business Journal

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