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CALIFORNIA | HEALTH CARE

MedPartners to Sell 5 of Its Physician Groups Here

May 25, 1999|SHARON BERNSTEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MedPartners Inc., whose California health plan was taken over and placed into bankruptcy by state regulators in March, said on Monday that it has agreed to sell five of its physician groups in the state.

The groups are among the company's smaller holdings, and range in location from San Joaquin County to the High Desert in Southern California. MedPartners would not disclose the buyers or the sale price.

The sales, which must be approved by a bankruptcy court judge, represent about 20% of MedPartners' California business but only 10% of its 1 million patients in the state.

The groups to be sold are Eaton Medical Group in Tracy and Manteca in San Joaquin County; U.S. Family Medical Care Medical Center in Montclair; Inland Empire Medical Group in the Riverside area; Cassidy Medical Group in San Diego; and High Desert Primary Care Group in Hesperia and Victorville.

MedPartners is in the process of closing down its California operations, which include a wholesale health plan and clinics that provide medical care for about 1 million people.

The larger clinics, such as the Friendly Hills and Mullikin medical groups in Los Angeles and Orange counties, have not yet been sold, according to company spokesman Robert Mead.

MedPartners is quitting the physician practice management business, which it once dominated, and is looking to remake itself as a manager of pharmacy benefits.

As a physician practice manager, it acted as a middleman between health-maintenance organizations and medical practitioners, paying claims and contracting with insurance companies in exchange for a management fee.

The business, which had once been viewed as the future of managed care, is deeply troubled as companies try to pay for all of their patient care commitments on a fixed monthly sum provided by insurance companies.

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