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Quality of Care Depends on Health Coverage

November 13, 2003

Re "In Terms of Medical Care, Even a Dog Is Better Off," Voices, Nov. 8: I enjoyed reading Keith Frohreich's comparison of the medical treatment received from his family physician with that given by his dog's veterinarian. However, I am not certain if Frohreich realizes that his physician is probably receiving a $10 or $20 monthly capitated fee from the HMO, while the veterinarian received "$200-plus" for care given.

Frohreich does not say how much he or his employer pays for HMO coverage. However, if Frohreich values his own health care as much as his dog's, he might consider paying more for better service. Many physicians are opting out of managed-care plans so that they can offer their patients the same high-quality service that the "pet hospital" provides. If Frohreich would switch to a traditional "fee for service" plan, or even a PPO (preferred-provider plan), he would receive better treatment and have more freedom to choose his doctors. He would not have to wait weeks to see a specialist. In my own private practice, I see patients on the same day they call, and some patients even get a follow-up phone call.

Neal Shanblatt MD

Los Angeles

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