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Ahead of federal healthcare overhaul, local hospitals look to primary care

January 11, 2013
(Times Community…)

As the new year begins, local healthcare providers are preparing for a potential flood of patients who previously didn’t have access to insurance, but who will now be covered as the federal Affordable Care Act takes effect.

More primary care physicians and their assistants will be needed, according to healthcare officials. And everyone from primary care doctors to hospitals are beginning to look at increased preventive care, more outpatient procedures and home healthcare services to reduce costs.

In Los Angeles County, about 1.7 million uninsured residents will gain access to coverage, according to the county’s Department of Health Services.

To offer primary care services, Glendale Adventist Medical Center acquired two urgent care centers and a multi-specialty medical practice last summer — all owned by Dr. Ara Tavitian.

At about the same time, Providence Health & Services, Southern California — which owns Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank — acquired Facey Medical Group with locations throughout the San Fernando Valley to provide primary care services.

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Kevin Roberts, president and chief executive of Glendale Adventist, said the hospital made the purchase because administrators were “very interested in affiliating with doctors who already have a passion to serve the people of Glendale.”

There is a shortage of primary care physicians, but Roberts said he feels supply and demand will hopefully bring more graduating medical students into primary practice because they are the gatekeepers to healthcare and come in direct contact with the most patients.

“I’m pretty bullish for the primary care community,” Roberts said, adding that primary physicians will have the greatest incentives under the new federal healthcare act because of the volume of patients they will be seeing.

David Mauss, vice president of business development at Glendale Memorial Hospital, said one hurdle in cultivating more primary care physicians is the choices made by medical students when they graduate. Often financially strapped with enormous student loan debt, more of them are opting to go into specialties such as pulmonology, cardiology or gastro-intestinal procedures because they can make more money and have more manageable hours.

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