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Resolution to protect Chinese American health care options passed

Settlement allowing physicians to have multiple health care program affiliations still in works

Brenda Yee, Chinese Hospital CEO
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

By Aldrich M. Tan

April 12, 2006

The Board of Supervisors unanimously supported a resolution Tuesday urging health care provider Brown & Toland to change an alleged unfair business practice that would hurt the health coverage of over 50,000 local Chinese Americans.

The resolution, sponsored by Supervisor Aaron Peskin at Tuesday's meeting, requested the San Francisco-based medical group, which has over 1,500 physicians, to cease requiring exclusivity for physicians to participate in the Brown & Toland's Preferred Network.

The exclusive requirement makes a select group of local doctors choose between the Brown & Toland program and other health care programs that focus on serving the city's Chinese American community, such as the Chinese Community Health Care Association,

That requirement especially threatens affiliated physicians and patients of Chinese Hospital, an independent hospital located on Jackson Street in San Francisco's Chinatown that has provided access to health care services for the Chinese community since 1899.

Brenda Yee, Chinese Hospital CEO, said she was pleased with the resolution's passing.

"The city recognizes Chinese Americans as an important asset and is supportive of the Chinese community," Yee said.

Launched in 2005, Brown & Toland's Preferred Network program aims to construct an improved and clinically integrated patient health care system of community based physicians, reported Richard Angeloni, spokesperson for Brown & Toland.

The program includes a signing bonus that that will provide funding for doctors to upgrade their practices with new technology.

"Patients would access an increased quality of health care," Angeloni added.

"Medical records could be passed right away through organized electronic means."

Many of the physicians who have been invited to join the exclusive Brown & Toland Preferred Network provide health services to thousands of local Chinese Americans through the Chinese Community Health Care Association and the Chinese Community Health Plan, a subsidiary of Chinese Hospital.

Both plans provide competent, culturally sensitive and affordable healthcare to a specifically disadvantaged group of individuals who are not generally served by broader health insurance programs, reported Richard Loos, CEO of the Chinese Community Health Care Plan.

"These doctors are being forced to choose between the economic viability of their practices and their loyalty to the community," Loos stated.

Signing onto Brown & Toland's program requires an exclusivity of physicians, which would force many doctors supporting Chinese American patients to leave related health care programs.

"So many Chinese Americans would be deprived of health services including 7,000 children if Brown & Toland had their way," said Tina Kwan, a pediatrician in Chinatown.

Chinese Hospital had known about Brown & Toland's practices since last June about the issue. The organization waited to take action until their doctors started to ask for help.

And they did.

Doctors Rachel Shu and Pearl Yee said they expressed concern to the Chinese Hospital about Brown & Toland business practices six months ago when the medical group started to send out its preferred status contract requiring all preferred doctors to resign from the Chinese Community Health Care Association.

"It tears my heart because I'm a member of both health care programs," Doctor Yee said.

"I felt like I was choosing one over another. How could I turn down my Chinese patients?"

Joseph Woo, chief of medical staff at the Chinese Hospital, said members of his staff have been solicited multiple times to sign up for the Brown & Toland plan.

"They have been solicited with lunch meetings and even in hospital corridors," he said.

"My doctors don't want to resign from the Chinese health care associations."

On Monday, City Attorney Dennis Herrera and the Chinese Hospital, along with its affiliated physicians' association and health maintenance organization, filed the lawsuit against Brown & Toland for unfair business practices.

"It is ironic that a hospital that was created a century ago to alleviate discrimination now faces discriminatory health care," Brenda Yee said.

Supervisor Peskin commended Herrera for his swift actions and the Chinese community for its hard work in bringing the issue to the Board.

"I hope that Brown & Toland learn that the city and government is not going to stand for an organization messing with an institution that has taken care of generations of Chinese Americans," Peskin said.

Stan Padilla, chief medical officer for Brown & Toland, said the medical group is not asking physicians to alter their relationship with Chinese health organizations. It continues to meet with the other parities in the lawsuit and representatives from Mayor Gavin Newsom's office towards a long term resolution that will be beneficial for all patients and physicians.

"I ask you strongly not to pass this resolution," Padilla said.

"I'm sure you do," Peskin replied.

Chinese community leader Rose Pak said she was thrilled about the resolution's unanimous passing.

"I hope that Brown & Toland will learn from this experience and sign the document that we have requested them to," she said.

Rose Pak

Chinese Hospital is asking for Brown & Toland to sign an agreement acknowledging hat it will not discriminate or solicit doctors affiliated with the Chinese Hospital, the Chinese Community Health Plan and the Chinese Community Health Care Association.




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