Independent physicians’ association expands into Nevada County
Effective Aug. 1, Hill Physicians Medical Group, Northern California’s largest independent physician association, has signed agreements with two major health plans to expand into western Nevada County.
Agreements are currently with UnitedHealthcare and Anthem, with the possibility of new plans being added in the future.
“We started looking into Nevada County in 2008, as it was contiguous to Sacramento, which is now our largest market,” said Dan Robinson, chief administrative officer with the medical services firm. “Initially, doctors didn’t see a need, but over time we’ve built up relationships and now many are interested in becoming a part of Hills Physicians.”
To date, more than three dozen independent physicians — including primary care physicians and specialists — have signed on within a service area covering Chicago Park, Cedar Ridge, Grass Valley, Penn Valley, Nevada City, North San Juan, Rough and Ready and Washington. The list is likely to expand, said Hill Physicians marketing director Neeta Crawford.
Patients of physicians who are members will have access to a network of nearly 4,000 doctors — including 1,000 primary care physicians and 3,000 specialists — in Northern California and can be referred to specialists out of the area. With the ongoing implementation of Epic Systems’ electronic health record system, lab results, appointments and payment to doctors should be streamlined and expedited, said Robinson. Most prior authorizations are completed within first 24 hours, which allows patients to be scheduled and seen sooner.
Hill Physicians was in a unique position to expand into the Nevada County area when Anthem and UnitedHealthcare terminated their contracts with Nivano Physicians, Inc. this month due to questions surrounding its financial condition. As a result, as many as 1,800 UnitedHealthcare patients in the Grass Valley area may transfer to Hills Physicians. Many area physicians see this as a plus — and they like the fact that Hill Physicians is a “physician-led” organization headed by 12 physician board members.
“The switch to Hill Physicians was in response to the debacle with Nivano Physicians,” said Grass Valley osteopathic family physician Huy Nguyen. “Unlike other individual provider associations, Hill doesn’t require authorization for referrals if the provider is in their network. Since not all of our local providers have joined Hill, that’s a little of an issue. Most are working their way to Hill, though. Nivano, namely its CEO, Dr. Kondle, shot himself in the foot trying to save money by requiring referral authorizations. He may not have a company left when Hill Physicians take all of their patients.”
Hills Physicians also has a history of collaboration with Dignity Health, said Crawford, including their hospitals in Sacramento, San Joaquin, San Francisco and now Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital.
“We are very pleased to begin working with Hill Physicians Medical Group,” said Kathy Medeiros, president/CEO of Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital. “HPMG is extremely reputable and is the largest independent physician group in California. Hill will bring stability to the physicians, the hospital and our entire community. With over 50 physician providers, our community will be assured continued local access to care including Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital as well as access to the other five hospitals in our service area.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.
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