Foundations give to hurricane-displaced doctors

The $1.4 million will go to three state medical society foundations and an Alabama clinic.

By Mike Norbut — Posted Nov. 7, 2005

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Thousands of physicians displaced by hurricanes Katrina and Rita are getting big help from their colleagues to get their practices running again.

AMNews has learned that foundations created by the class-action settlements physicians forged with Aetna and Cigna Healthcare are donating a total of $1.4 million to aid doctors whose offices were destroyed or damaged by the storms earlier this year.

The organizations, Physicians' Foundation for Health Systems Excellence and Physicians' Foundation for Health Systems Innovations, plan to donate to relief funds dedicated to helping physicians rebuild their practices. They will give $500,000 to the Mississippi State Medical Assn. Foundation, $500,000 to the Louisiana State Medical Society Hurricane Katrina Physician Relief Fund and $200,000 to the Texas Medical Assn. Foundation.

The foundations also will give $200,000 to Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic in Bayou La Batre, Ala. Hurricane Katrina destroyed the clinic, run by family physician Regina Benjamin, MD. It was the only practice the Medical Assn. of the State of Alabama identified as being destroyed by the hurricane, according to the foundations.

Even though her office was on stilts, it still took on about five feet of water, Dr. Benjamin said. The flooding destroyed everything.

Dr. Benjamin was president of the Medical Assn. of the State of Alabama when physicians initially banded together to mount their class-action case against HMOs. The foundations were created out of some of those settlements, and now they have come to Dr. Benjamin's aid.

Receiving the donation "was just wonderful," Dr. Benjamin said. "I benefited from something I was fighting for. For the foundation to come to my rescue, I thought it was great."

In a letter to state societies involved in the class-action settlements, Tim Norbeck, president of the foundations and executive director of the Connecticut State Medical Society, said the organizations "can be very proud" of their connection to the foundations "and the wonderful good that is being done with the funds."

"I am sure that you share with the [foundation] boards a collective sense of pride and satisfaction that we were in a position to have the opportunity to help physicians and patients in a terribly tragic situation," the letter said.

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