Biz Buzz: Doctor groups vie for health care sign-ups

Fall is typically the season when employees select health care benefits from their employers’ plans. This year, a public campaign by two competing independent practice associations, seeking enrollment sign-ups, has left many San Luis Obispo County residents confused.

SLO Select and Coastal Communities Physicians Network are the two independent practice associations offered in the county.

SLO Select is owned by a group of physicians, many of them local.

Coastal Communities Physician Network is owned by an individual in Marina Del Rey.

The two companies are vying for a chance to serve local residents who are enrolled in one of the county’s HMOs; the main ones are Blue Cross, Blue Shield and Secure Horizons. People who have nonHMO health insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicare Advantage, are not affected.

Individuals in an HMO plan, whose primary-care doctor belongs to one of the two IPA groups, are only covered if the doctor they see is part of their HMO-approved physician network. Doctors out of network cost more.

Some of the ads, including those published in The Tribune, assert that the physician groups may limit hospital choice.

Health care professionals advise that consumers ask questions before signing up for any plan. Among the key questions: Will the plan allow me to go to any hospital in the county or will I be restricted to a certain one? Can I choose any doctor or must I choose from a specific list?

The open-enrollment period for the employer plans being wooed by the two IPAs ends Dec. 31.

— Stacy Daniel

San Luis Obispo’s business community honored retiring Mayor David Romero with a heartfelt recognition Thursday for his years of service to the city.

At the monthly Good Morning San Luis Obispo meeting of the Chamber of Commerce, chamber CEO Dave Garth asked Romero to come to the stage. Garth then presented Romero with a plaque and thanked him for more than 50 years of service to San Luis Obispo, both as public works director and an elected official.

The crowd of several hundred gave a standing ovation to Romero. “Thank you for making my life a blessed life,” said Romero in response.

Romero will conclude his tenure as mayor next month.

— Tad Weber

Santa Maria-based television station KCOY announced Thursday that veteran Central Coast TV newsman Tony Cipolla will host a weekly feature called “Time with Tony.”

The series will air next month and will focus on people “who make the Central Coast a special place to live,” said a news release from the CBS affiliate. The feature will air during the 6 p.m. broadcast every Thursday in November.

“Telling stories is what I have always done, and now I have a venue in which to do that,” Cipolla said.

Whether it will continue beyond November will be determined by station managers and Cipolla, he said.

He is the former news anchor for KSBY in San Luis Obispo. He worked at that station for 20 years, starting as a general assignment reporter, then later as anchor, editor and news director. Cipolla left the NBC affiliate in June after an agreement couldn’t be reached with management about his contract.

Cipolla is also teaching broadcast journalism at Cal Poly on a part-time basis.

— Staff report