Henry Ford Health System and Horizon Health System in southeast Michigan agreed to launch exclusive merger talks. Bob Blair, corporate director of marketing and public relations at Horizon, said Horizon could become the osteopathic division of the massive Henry Ford system. After several months of preliminary discussions, the Horizon board of trustees agreed two weeks ago to 90 days of detailed talks. A similar decision was reached by Henry Ford Nov. 17. Southfield-based Horizon owns 185-bed Riverside Osteopathic Hospital in Trenton and 231-bed Bi-County Community Hospital in Warren, as well as ambulatory facilities, physician offices, a home healthcare agency and other facilities. Detroit-based Henry Ford owns or is affiliated with nine hospitals and operates a 450,000-enrollee HMO and other facilities in the metropolitan area. Senior executives of both systems declared their missions compatible.
A federal judge last week issued a temporary order barring enforcement of Proposition 187 in California. That measure, approved by the state's voters on Nov. 8, would bar illegal immigrants from public education and all but emergency healthcare in California. U.S. District Judge Matthew Byrne in Los Angeles granted the order sought by the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed suit to halt the measure's implementation. Meanwhile, although providers have been treating illegal aliens as usual, clinics have reported significantly lower numbers seeking care.
In a report card on HMOs released by the Bay Area Business Group on Health, a consortium of 20 major California employers, employees and retirees gave California HMOs the highest marks for cost, coverage and service, compared with individuals in PPO and indemnity plans. But while HMO enrollees are more satisfied with their plans, individuals in PPOs are more satisfied with their physicians and the quality of specialists, the consortium said. "HMOs, notably staff HMOs, need to improve some aspects of physician care," said Tracy Rodriguez, associate director of the group. Most of the 10 employers who participated in the survey on which the report card is based said they will use the results to identify areas needing improvement.
G. Fred DiBona Jr. was elected chairman of the board of the national Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association last week. Mr. DiBona has been president and chief executive officer of Philadelphia-based Independence Blue Cross since 1990. Independence Blue Cross serves 2.3 million subscribers. The Blues association is the coordinating body for the nation's 68 Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans.
Caremark International last week denied that it submitted false and inflated bills to insurers and Medicaid in Michigan. "Caremark does not submit inflated bills to any payer, including Medicaid of Michigan and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan," Caremark spokesman Steve Mazur said. A story in The Wall Street Journal said federal investigators are focusing on whether alleged false billing by Caremark constituted a federal crime by violating Medicaid and Blue Cross guidelines. The report said that the investigation is also focusing on the activities of Bruce A. Margulis, a Detroit-area physician who headed a joint sales venture with Caremark and later became president of the company's Detroit office.