In many respects, primary care doctors are the quarterbacks of the new health care system, the marquee players that every team is scrambling to sign. Some work under contract, others under lease arrangements, and more and more are becoming employees of the teams. The financial details of these employment arrangements are tightly held secrets, but rumors abound of signing bonuses, lavish incentives, and big paydays. The health networks—the teams—scoff at such reports, but many of them quietly whisper that their competitors are offering physicians outlandish deals.
As the state’s health care industry consolidates, regulators and the media have focused most of their attention on high-profile hospital mergers and acquisitions. But the pursuit of primary care physicians may eventually have a more profound impact on health care. Those networks that control the most doctors will control the most patients, and with them will come more revenue, more referrals, and more leverage in negotiating reimbursement rates with insurers.