Four western Wisconsin organizations have formed a joint venture to compete with Mayo Health System.
The venture, Aegishealth, will begin marketing an HMO April 1, with coverage expected to start in July.
"It assures the healthcare consumers of western Wisconsin that they will, indeed, have a choice," said David Fish, Aegishealth's interim director.
Aegishealth includes 344-bed Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire; 193-bed St. Joseph's Hospital in Chippewa Falls; Group Health Cooperative, an Eau Claire-based HMO with nine medical clinics; and Marshfield (Wis.) Clinic, which is based outside the Aegishealth service area but has clinics there.
Aegishealth has more than 550 physicians, Fish said, and plans to add independent doctors and hospitals.
Since 1992, Mayo has affiliated with eight hospitals and 259 physicians in western Wisconsin as part of a strategy to build a regional network 120 miles around its headquarters of Rochester, Minn. (See related story, p. 34). The Mayo system is the exclusive provider for Eau Claire-based Valley Health Plan, which is owned by Blue Cross and Blue Shield United of Wisconsin.
Mayo's network includes Midelfort Clinic and 207-bed Luther Hospital in Eau Claire, Red Cedar Clinic and 55-bed Myrtle Werth Medical Center in Menomonie, and Skemp Clinic and three-hospital Franciscan Health System in La Crosse.
Mayo's merger with Myrtle Werth was completed March 1, after a lawsuit attempting to block it was withdrawn (See related story, p. 34).
Also, Mayo has contracts with three other hospitals in the Aegishealth service area: 104-bed Bloomer (Wis.) Community Memorial Hospital, 99-bed Osseo (Wis.) Area Municipal Hospital, and 92-bed Barron (Wis.) Memorial Medical Center.
More competition is threatening Mayo from Duluth, Minn., where Duluth Clinic and Benedictine Health System have started to form relationships with providers in northwestern Wisconsin, Fish noted.
Aegishealth plans to begin marketing in Chippewa, Eau Claire, Dunn and Barron counties, and to expand to 11 others. Its members will consider sharing some services, such as laboratory, in order to cut costs, Fish said.
Aegishealth is seeking a permanent headquarters in the Eau Claire/ Chippewa Falls area.