Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa has joined with 26 Iowa hospitals to form a mammoth provider-insurer alliance that will offer an insurance product available to the entire state.
Industry observers said the letter of intent for the agreement, which still has to be approved by all healthcare providers involved, is Blue Cross and Blue Shield's attempt to get out of the box first with an insurance product marketed statewide.
The Iowa Health System, Mercy Health Services and the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics are the leading providers in the effort to streamline the delivery, financing and management of healthcare services into one organization. Executives said this will be the first of its kind that reaches all parts of the state.
Executives said it was too early to release financial terms of the agreement and that they haven't determined premiums.
"This will provide better service in rural areas," said Ron Hanser, vice president of the Iowa Health System, which was formed last year through the merger of 710-bed Iowa Methodist Medical Center and 465-bed Iowa Lutheran Hospital. A network of a half-dozen rural hospitals also is tied into that system.
The alliance includes the five-hospital Mercy Health Services, sponsored by Sisters of Mercy Regional Community of Detroit, and its network of 12 rural hospitals. The state's only academic medical center, the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, is part of the alliance as well.
IASD Health Services Corp., which does business in Iowa as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa, will expand its insurance product, Unity Choice Health Plan, from the Des Moines area to the rest of the state.
"This is just one insurance product that's going to be out there," said James Garvey, regional director for strategic planning and marketing for the Des Moines office of Mercy Health Services, which reaches one-third of Iowa's counties and 800,000 people.