Q&A — Albert Kwan

Dr. Albert M. Kwan of Clovis was recently elected to the board of directors for the New Mexico Medical Review Association.

Q: What is the purpose or goal of the New Mexico Medical Review Association?
A: Its goal is to improve the quality of care in the state. We mostly look at Medicare and Medicaid issues and concerns. The organization works with physicians, hospitals, other health providers and Medicare beneficiaries throughout the state to improve the quality of health care.

Q: What is the leading concern among health care professionals in the state?
A: The No. 1 concern is the shortage of physicians here in New Mexico. We have two problems. First, it’s difficult to attract physicians to come to New Mexico, and it’s also difficult to retain those who are here.

Q: Why?
A: The major issue is the gross receipts tax. New Mexico is one of only two states in the United States that imposes a gross receipts tax on medical services. If a physician goes to Texas or Arizona, he doesn’t have to pay that 6 or 7 percent gross receipts tax on his income. The public often asks why is that an issue with doctors. After all, the state is taxing other businesses — why not doctors? It’s a problem primarily because our reimbursement is not the same as other businesses or professions. We usually get our money from a third party — either the insurance company or Medicare or Medicaid. They contract with me. They don’t pay a tax, and I can’t charge a tax on my patient. So we have to pay the tax on whatever money we receive — and usually it’s less than the full charge. The absorption of the loss is made by the doctors. We can’t pass it on to anyone else. The businessman can, the lawyers can, but not health care professionals.

Q: Are there other issues?
A: The second issue is the low reimbursement for professional services in our state. New Mexico reimbursements are among the lowest paid in the nation. Insurance companies will use Medicare reimbursement as a gauge — they follow Medicare, so their reimbursements are extremely low as well. It’s a very unfair system. Our governor and senators are aware of it, but they say it’s difficult to improve it. The No. 3 issue is professional isolation. It’s a challenge. Most doctors are trained in the big cities, and when they come out here, they experience professional isolation and stress. They may not want to deal with it. You need to have a dedication to the state of New Mexico to come here. The people are nice. The weather is nice. The state is beautiful, very diversified. It’s an underserved area. Physicians who come here won’t have a hard time setting up a practice. Those are attractive qualities. It just depends on what people want to do.

Q: What is your background?
A: I was born and raised in Hong Kong. I came over here for education as a teenager. I came to New Mexico in 1974. I have always loved it since then and wanted to stay. I graduated from the University of New Mexico Medical School in 1983. I served in the U.S. Air Force for seven years — from 1986-93. My last assignment was as the chief of surgery at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque. Then I came to Clovis.

Q: How long have you been a member of the New Mexico Medical Review Association?
A: This will be my third year.

Q: What brought you here to Clovis?
A: I liked the city and found it had a good atmosphere for family. I have six children, and five of them finished high school here. The youngest one will be a sophomore this coming year.

— Compiled by CNJ senior writer Gary Mitchell