Forget all that talk about Orange County being a saturated market for managed care.
Most county residents older than 65 haven't signed up for an HMO yet.
About 65% of the population of 265,000 local seniors get their benefits directly through the federal government's Medicare program, rather than a Medicare HMO, according to government figures..
No wonder Inter Valley Health Plan, a pint-sized, nonprofit HMO in Pomona, wants to expand its plan for seniors in the county.
Inter Valley's total senior membership of 15,000 in Southern California is dwarfed by those of the two Orange County-based for-profit giants, PacifiCare Health Systems Inc. and FHP International Corp. The Pomona company presently has only about 1,000 senior members in northern Orange County.
But Alexander Bokor, Inter Valley's medical director, believes the plan's nonprofit status gives it at least one competitive advantage over its large, for-profit competitors.
Without the pressure that publicly held companies have to show bottom-line profits, Inter Valley can share more of its members' premium dollars with doctors, hospitals and other providers of health care, Bokor says. "When we pay our providers more, they see themselves as having more latitude in delivery of health care services," he says.
And that, he adds, should translate into better care for patients.
Barbara Marsh covers health care for The Times. She can be reached at (714) 966-7762 and at firstname.lastname@example.org