A nucleus of seven New England hospitals has agreed to establish an integrated healthcare network covering most of New Hampshire, about half of Vermont and a midsection of Massachusetts.
Network organizers expected to file federal documents for antitrust review by late last week or sometime this week, said a spokeswoman for the largest of the partners, 379-bed Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital, Lebanon, N.H.
The proposed network will be organized into six regions, each anchored by a hospital and a separate holding company, and linked as subsidiaries of a parent system tentatively named the United Community Health System.
Participants in the system are the Hitchcock Alliance, a parent company that includes Hitchcock Memorial, 175-bed Cooley Dickinson Hospital, Northampton, Mass., and 20-bed Upper Connecticut Valley Hospital, Colebrook, N.H.; 206-bed Concord (N.H.) Hospital; 165-bed Cheshire Medical Center, Keene, N.H.; 120-bed Southern New Hampshire Regional Medical Center, Nashua; and 112-bed Wentworth-Douglass Hospital, Dover, N.H.
The network doesn't expect to be ready for operation until next summer because of the time required for antitrust review by the federal government and the three states, said Steve Marion, vice president for regional planning at Hitchcock Memorial.
But the system already has made good on one of its objectives-responding to managed-care market forces-by winning a contract with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Hampshire to develop an independent practice association and hospital network to which the insurer will direct its business, said Mr. Marion.
The Blues organization developed a point-of-service plan, which allows patients to choose a Blues-preferred provider or go with their own physician at a higher copayment. But employers in the state were demanding an HMO-type organization to round out the provider options, said Clark Dumont, vice president of public affairs and communications for the Blues plan.
The insurer expects to market that capability by July 1995, using a network of physicians associated with the United system's member hospitals. The IPA will be complemented by a separate contract with the Lahey Hitchcock Clinic based in Lebanon and Burlington, Mass., a multispecialty group practice, Mr. Dumont said.
Even if federal or state scrutiny delayed or scuttled the proposed regional network, the member hospitals would be able to meet the contract, Mr. Marion said. The network needs antitrust clearance to consolidate governance and asset decisions but not to form a managed-care network, he said.
Under the proposed organization, each community-based holding company would develop a network of nonhospital providers in its region to round out a continuum of care. Cooley Dickinson, which formed its alliance with Hitchcock last year (Aug. 2, 1993, p. 18), would withdraw from that original holding company and anchor its own in central Massachusetts, Mr. Marion said.
The overall parent company would help contain costs and consolidate services in areas such as information-system development and practice-pattern assessment, he said.