Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Patients Can Go to Skin Doctors Directly

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Patients Can Go to Skin Doctors Directly

Article excerpt

Thanks to a new Florida law, members of health maintenance

organizations now have the right to go see a skin specialist

without getting their primary care doctor's permission.

Gov. Lawton Chiles let the dermatology "direct access" bill

take effect without his signature.

Now HMO members can visit any of their plan's skin specialists

five times in a 12-month period without a referral from another


The bill's enactment into law has left health insurers gnashing

their teeth in frustration.

"The consumer will ultimately pay the price," said Richard

Dorff, who heads the Florida Association of HMOs.

A study by the HMO's national association estimates that any

reform allowing the patients to see any type of specialists

directly would raise premiums by 9 percent, he said.

In Florida, where 95 percent of the businesses employ less than

25 people, the added cost will lead some employers to drop their


"Some of them can barely afford insurance right now," he said.

Dorff predicts more direct access proposals will be introduced

in next year's Legislature.

In March, the Florida Medical Association's board decided that

HMOs ought to provide direct access to all specialists, said

Fran Conaway, a spokesman for the doctor's group.

A dog may be man's best friend, but he may also be an insurance


Dog attacks have increased at a rate of 2 percent each year

with about 4.5 million dog bites reported to local authorities

last year, according to an estimate of the New York City-based

Insurance Information Institute, a nonprofit group.

Fido's sharp teeth cost the insurance industry $1 billion in

claims last year.

"Society is becoming more litigious," said the institute's

Jayna Neagle . "Where once your neighbor's dog just nipped you,

it now turns into a court case. …

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