Doctor asks court for help with insurance payments

By Tambria Leonard-Whitman
Leader correspondent


Dr. Wilbur Hah of Orange Medical Surgical Associates asked Judge Carl Thibodeaux and members of the Orange County Commission on Monday for help to avoid a forced reduction and degradation of medical services in Orange.

“Quality health care is at stake,” Hah told commissioners. He is concerned low fees paid to doctors by Blue Cross Blue Shield will drive current and prospective doctors out of the area.

Hah said he sees a looming crisis occurring if not fixed within the next 18 to 24 months. Thibodeaux agreed to contact BCBS of Texas directly to arrange a meeting and help to facilitate discussion over this issue.

Hah is one of six doctors from Orange Medical Surgical Associates who handle a large percentage of the BCBS network in the area. Other doctors within the practice are Louis McIntire, W.M. Rutledge Jr., Steven Mazzola and Marian Chen-Hah.

Many major organizations in Orange use BCBS as their primary insurance including the school districts of Orangefield, Little Cypress-Mauriceville, West Orange and Vidor, as well as Orange County.

According to Hah, these changes occurred when BCBS of Texas merged with BCBS of Illinois, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. Hah said he sees their millions of dollars in profits coming from lower payments to practices such as his.

Many fees are determined by malpractice insurance, value of rent and costs of maintaining an office. Doctors in other cities such as Dallas and Houston receive higher fees because of these factors.

Fees are acceptable for office visits, Hah said, but are not within costs of surgeries or with specialty services such as treatment of throat or neck cancer. The only way a doctor could recoup the cost would be to set up a large amount of procedures to be done in one day and in a smaller city such as Orange cannot provide the higher volume.

In other court business, Janell Duchamp, certified professional public buyer for Orange County, brought to the court several lists of inventories to be approved for movement to the county surplus building or for removal from court books.

Duchamp’s office handles tracking of more than $31 million in fixed assets over $500, including lands, buildings and equipment. Most of the items on the agenda were for bookkeeping purposes.

Commissioners also approved a new DSL line in the law library. This security measure will allow attorneys access to the library separate from the main frame computer.
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