Frustrated by the increasing pressures on independent doctors to sell out to hospitals and health systems, a group of doctors from HealthFirst, Vermont's largest independent physician group, has joined the Association of Independent Doctors, a national nonprofit dedicated to helping private practices survive.
The move establishes the Vermont Chapter of AID, while reinforcing HealthFirst's resolve to do what's best for patients and help independent doctors maintain their small practices.
"When hospital systems buy private medical practices, costs sky rocket and quality suffers," said Marni Jameson Carey, executive director of AID.
Nationwide, large hospital systems have been aggressively buying up independent doctors and turning them into employed physicians, she said.
"AID is working to reverse that trend, which is not good for patients, doctors, or communities," said Carey. "As the number of independent doctors shrinks, unfavorable market dynamics, including higher health-care costs and lower quality of care, grow."
The addition of a Vermont chapter is crucial given the dynamics in the state, said HealthFirst Executive Director Amy Cooper.
"By joining forces with AID, we can bring greater attention to the issues facing independent doctors and their patients," said Cooper. "We must do all we can to protect patient's access to the personalized care offered by independent doctors."
"Forming a Vermont Chapter of AID will help us ensure that health-care reform supports physician-owned practices, which have been proven to offer the highest-quality and most cost-effective care to patients," said Dr. Paul Reiss, chief medical officer for HealthFirst.
Vermont's doctors will benefit from AID's infrastructure, national reach and resources, Cooper added.
By joining AID, HealthFirst will help give independent doctors a voice on the national stage, while maintaining its local activism," said Carey, who spoke to the group in Burlington last fall. After her presentation, the group's board voted to go ahead with a chapter, and underwrote 15 memberships to form the chapter.
Members will become a part of AID's online directory of independent doctors, a growing database designed to help patients and referral sources find independent doctors.
Founded in 2013, AID has 1,000 members in more than 30 states and chapters in five: Florida, California, Maine, South Carolina, and now Vermont.
A former Los Angeles Times health reporter, Carey speaks frequently to media on behalf of independent doctors. She also speaks often in the nation's capital and to health-care associations across the country to reverse the trend of hospitals buying up medical practices.
As s a part of the effort, AID works to promote health-care price transparency, to educate consumers about the cost benefits of getting care from independent providers, and to inform lawmakers about why saving America's independent doctors is healthy for America.