U.S. Healthcare, which is known as a hard-nosed bargainer when it comes to paying hospitals and physicians, may be seeking to create equity partnerships that are expected to be offered to many of its 300 contracting hospitals.
A spokeswoman confirmed that the Blue Bell, Pa.-based operator of health maintenance organizations has proposed awarding stock options to hospitals or establishing profit-sharing trusts that would be owned jointly.
Similar strategies are being tried by some of U.S. Healthcare's competitors.
For example, Independence Blue Cross and Graduate Health System in Philadelphia recently had agreed to merge their for-profit operations into a newly created subsidiary (Feb. 7, p. 8).
Such deals represent a trend among some HMOs and health insurers to become involved directly in the delivery of healthcare.
That strategy would be a departure for U.S. Healthcare. The HMO company recently has offered other innovations, such as a payment system that enables selected hospitals to receive a "retainer" or "bonus" whenever they meet or exceed certain quality goals.