Who Owns The Patient Anyway?

Independent doctors are waging all-out war with managed-care plans to hold on to their patients and control their care

Dr. Don Shuwarger, a Houston obstetrician, used to work six days a week, seeing about 40 patients a day. But on Jan. 1 he lost 2,100 of his 3,000 regular patients when their employers, seven aerospace companies, joined managed-care networks. When he tried to follow most of his patients into the five plans, he was told they had enough obstetricians and did not need him. Of course, his former patients can continue seeing him if they pay higher deductibles, but very few are doing so. "It's almost enough to make a guy paranoid," he says. "The impression in the patients' minds...

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