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    Cigna will close 8 clinics

    By WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published May 19, 2002

    Cigna HealthCare of Florida Inc. is closing all eight of its Tampa Bay health care clinics because too few patients are using them.

    Cigna, the last major insurance company in Florida operating the all-purpose health centers, will close the clinics, in addition to three others in the Orlando area, effective Aug. 31.

    About 230 people working in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, including 30 full-time Cigna physicians, will lose their jobs.

    The company said the impact on the 40,000 members using the clinics should be relatively minor.

    Clinic physicians amounted to just 2 or 3 percent of Cigna's network of doctors in the Tampa Bay area, said Cigna spokesman F. David Feng. A clinic patient can switch to another primary care physician in Cigna's network, he said.

    When clinic doctors find other work, or enter private practice, they can opt to contract with Cigna and stay in the network, Feng said.

    "If a majority of the doctors stay in our network, patients will see no impact except having to visit a different office," Feng said Saturday. "We don't want to alarm anyone about this."

    Patients need do nothing for the time being. Cigna is expected to send out letters to members in the next few days notifying them of the coming change. By early July, they will be notified about whether their doctor is staying in Cigna's network.

    "We are working diligently with area physician groups and hospitals to help identify private practice and recruitment opportunities for our physicians, nurses and other health care professionals," Cigna President Andrew Crooks said in a statement.

    Patients can continue to use the clinics in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa and Brandon through Aug. 31. Hours and services remain unchanged until the closing.

    About 600,000 people are insured statewide by Cigna through a network of 130 hospitals, 8,500 participating in-network physicians and related professionals.

    The clinics, some of which were in operation nearly 20 years, allowed patients to receive one-stop shopping for their health care needs. They could visit their family doctor, fill a prescription at a Cigna pharmacy and get glasses, an X-ray or lab work.

    "Patients received sort of the red-carpet treatment," Feng said. "We were really able to personalize the service. There was a time when these kinds of centers flourished and seemed to meet a market need. "But now it's just a soft market and not enough people signed on."

    Locations

    The following Cigna Health Care Centers in the Tampa Bay area will close effective Aug. 31:

    414 W Robertson St., Brandon

    2495 Enterprise Drive, Clearwate

    710 94th Ave. N, St. Petersburg

    11707 Club Drive, Tampa 2501 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa

    3745 33rd St. N, St. Petersbur

    5210 Webb Road, Tampa

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