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HEALTH-CARE CHANGES LEAVE PATIENTS LOOKING FOR ANSWERS

Promedicus Medical Group's withdrawal from Independent Health has left some of its patients in a quandary, with many questions unanswered.

"I don't want to change all my doctors," said Barbara Stevens of Colden, whose primary physician is with Independent Health. In addition, she has a surgeon and several specialists -- one for arthritis, one for the hands, a neurologist, plus a chiropractor.

"If I change my primary doctor, do I have to drop all the others too?" she wondered.

Mrs. Stevens is used to driving to Mercy Hospital in South Buffalo and doesn't look forward to traveling to Erie County Medical Center.

The Stevenses have another problem. Promedicus says that if they want to keep their physician, they must switch from Independent Health to a participating health plan by Jan. 1. But her husband, Daniel, who works out of the Carpenters Union Hall, can't switch insurance companies by then because he is committed to Independent Health until April.

Would his employer -- or would Promedicus -- make an exception in his case?

Mrs. Stevens doesn't know.

April Thomas of Buffalo stayed with Independent Health after finishing college in 1994 and starting out on her own.

"I like my doctor," said the counselor at Akron High School. "I've had him since I was little; and he's not that old. And I'm really reluctant to change from Independent Health. I haven't had any problems with it."

She is going to ask her parents what they plan to do about their own insurance. She also will ask her school district if it will switch insurance coverage for her.

On the other hand, the change at Promedicus will not affect Harold Beeny of Orchard Park because he pulled out of Independent Health as soon as it announced it wouldn't cover treatment in Catholic hospitals for its Medicare patients.

A retired appliance repairman, Beeny has signed up with Senior Choice and can continue to be treated at Mercy Hospital or Our Lady of Victory Hospital.

"I don't want to go all the way to Buffalo General or Millard Fillmore," Beeny said. "That's quite a way to go from Orchard Park."

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