Reaction to Kaiser Permanente's takeover of the Buenaventura Medical Group has been mixed, with some patients fuming over news that they'll have to sign up for Kaiser health insurance or find new doctors and others asking when they can sign up.

"I'm just furious that the Buenaventura Medical clinic felt it was necessary to do this," said patient Sharon Gomez of Ventura. "This is not fair to the community at all. Something has to be done about this. This infuriates me."

On the other hand, community reaction heard at Buenaventura Medical Group has been quite the opposite since Kaiser made its announcement last month, said Medical Executive Officer Manuel Marquez.

Buenaventura Medical Group's beginnings go back to 1945. It is the oldest and largest medical group in Ventura County, treating 90,000 patients annually. Its roots run deep.

The medical group and most of its 62 doctors will become part of the Kaiser HMO effective Jan. 1. Kaiser doctors accept only patients with Kaiser insurance, so Buenaventura Medical Group patients must decide to either join the HMO's plan, if their employers offer it, or find other doctors.

At this point, Buenaventura Medical Group officials can't name every doctor who will join Kaiser. The group is owned by 39 shareholder physicians; all of them will join the HMO, but that leaves 23 "associate physicians" whose plans remain unknown.

"There's a lot of work to do," he said. "Obviously there are employers to contact. Certainly our folks are encouraging employers to have us as one of their healthcare offerings."

Kaiser officials are confident that Buenaventura Medical Group's goodwill will carry them far in this part of the county. As Dr. Jeffrey Pearl, Kaiser's assistant area medical director told The Star in earlier reports, Buenaventura Medical Group's reputation and ties will serve to introduce Kaiser here.

Some think the introduction is a little late. Gomez said it would be a different story had Kaiser and Buenaventura Medical Group given people time to prepare for the change.

Many companies have already had open enrollment, she said, and people can't change their insurance to Kaiser if they need to by Jan. 1, when Buenaventura Medical Group stops taking any other insurance.

"They knew this was going to happen, and they just lowered the bomb," she said of Buenaventura Medical Group and Kaiser. "They let the fireworks go earlier than the Fourth of July."

At the Main Street Cafe, the takeover has been a topic of conversation for a handful of retired county employees who get together regularly for breakfast on Wednesdays.

Many retirees joined SCAN Health Plan, the senior service plan covering Southern California, when it moved into Ventura County in April 2005 and partnered with Buenaventura Medical Group.

David Schmidt, SCAN Health Plan chief executive officer, said there would not be any problems for SCAN members for the next six months, but SCAN is using the time to evaluate options so it can make changes by January.

"It came as big a surprise to us as it did to them (SCAN members)," Schmidt said. "We've put a lot of time, energy and money into entering the market with Buenaventura Medical Group as a partner."

SCAN has grown in Ventura County during the past year, investing resources in a community center in Ventura and offering community-based services for its members.

The company has a relationship with Valley Care IPA in Ventura, which was managed by Buenaventura Medical Group. Schmidt said he expects to continue working with Valley Care IPA and finding other solutions.

"We have to find an alternative to allow us to continue to serve these members," he said. "There are some choices, and we are exploring all of them as we speak."

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