UMC proposes multi-million dollar project that has private doctors worried

Sunday, April 7, 2013 - 1:14am

University Medical Center of El Paso is asking the Commissioners Court to approve a $162 million bond project to pay for 3 new clinics, and expand an existing one in the Northeast. It's all so uninsured El Pasoans can have access to health care.

But private doctors are not on board. According to those physicians, they provide care to just as many uninsured patients as UMC does, but were completely excluded from the process.

"We think El Paso county deserves a solution that is true for our county and the only way to do that is to bring all the players together that we can do that," said Dr. Luis Urrea, an orthopedic surgeon and member of the El Paso County Medical Society.

"I would be stunned if the private doctors take more uninsured patients than UMC does," said El Paso County Judge, Veronica Escobar.

If commissioners vote to approve UMC's project, Judge Escobar said she will ask UMC to include private doctors. But, Judge Escobar said she believes the real reason private doctors oppose the plan is because they're afraid UMC's new clinics will take some of their business.

"You as a doctor, you have your patients. Your patients have health insurance and they're pretty loyal to their doctor. You know, I have an OBGYN, I'm probably going to see the same OBGYN every year. My kids have a pediatrician, I'm probably going to take them to the same pediatrician every year. You're not going to see private pay patients leaving their physicians in droves to go to a clinic," said Judge Escobar.

So why not send it to the voters and let them decide? According to Judge Escobar, running a campaign is expensive and the opposition would have million of dollars in support from private health care interests.

"Who's going to run the pack for the uninsured? Who's going to put together a campaign for the working poor? Who's going to run that campaign?" she said.

Ultimately, though, both the private and public sector share the same goal.

"I think as a community, we want to take care of everybody," said Dr. Urrea.


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