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Seniors forced to switch doctors

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NORMAN, Okla., Nov 18, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- A University of Oklahoma-led study says nine out of 10 seniors who change their primary care physicians do so largely because of insurance-related reasons.

The study in the November edition of The Journal of the American Board of Family Practice analyzed the cases of about 800 patients 65 and older.

It found 14 percent of seniors changed physicians in a single year. Of those, nine out of 10 who changed did so involuntarily, with insurance-related reasons accounting for 44 percent of the switches.

Forty percent of the patients sought new physicians because their former doctors had moved, retired or died.

"This study should raise concerns about changes in the health care system in recent years, including insurance and physician workforce instability," said James W. Mold, the study's lead author.

"Maintaining a long-term relationship with a primary care physician -- what we call 'continuity of care' -- is associated with better health outcomes for patients at a lower cost."

The study said current proposals for reform and expansion of the Medicare program, particularly those that promote privatization, could potentially increase the rate of involuntary discontinuity.

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.


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