HONOLULU-State Sen. Stanley T. Koki has asked Gov. John Waihee to name a task force composed of healthcare executives and planners to explore establishing a "world-class healthcare facility to serve Asia and the Pacific Rim." The senator proposed unifying the Aloha State's public and private healthcare systems under some form of umbrella organization, to be determined by the task force, which would seek patients from Pacific Rim nations. He also has identified 1,100 acres of state-owned land in Kapolei, near Honolulu, where such a facility could be constructed. The senator said the state's healthcare providers should study ways to use its geographic location to attract new business from patients traveling through Hawaii to mainland hospitals to obtain care for complex cases. Mr. Waihee had not responded to the senator's request as of press time.
EVERETT, Wash.-The boards of directors of the Providence Foundation and the General Hospital Health Care Foundation have agreed to merge, following the lead of their recently merged hospitals, 188-bed Providence Hospital and 179-bed General Hospital Medical Center. The hospitals completed their merger March 1, becoming Providence General Medical Center. The new foundation, to be called Providence General Foundation, will be governed by an independent, community-based board of directors, the organizations said.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska-Blue Cross of Washington and Alaska will repay as much as $900,000 to settle a federal lawsuit that accused the company of overbilling during the past eight years. The health insurer also has agreed to change the way it calculates billings. The class-action lawsuit filed last summer in U.S. District Court claimed Blue Cross broke the law by not passing on to subscribers savings from secret discounts it negotiated with hospitals. Blue Cross said in a written statement at the time that the discounts were neither secretive nor unlawful. Blue Cross admitted no liability. But Jeff Gingold, a senior vice president, said that regardless of legal arguments, "Our customers told us our practice was confusing and needed to change. We heard them." The refunds will range from a minimum of $20 to about $450. They will go to a still undisclosed number of the more than 500,000 Blue Cross subscribers in Washington state and Alaska.-Associated Press