United Wisconsin Services plans to launch a new managed-care company with a rural provider to compete against giant Marshfield (Wis.) Clinic in north central Wisconsin.
Milwaukee-based United, with 260,000 enrollees, is the largest HMO in Wisconsin.
The insurer's majority shareholder is Blue Cross and Blue Shield United of Wisconsin, which accused Marshfield of breaking antitrust laws to maintain a monopoly for its HMO. A jury verdict in favor of the Blues was overturned, except on one count (March 25, p. 6).
A spokesman for United and the Blues said the new venture would offer area residents another choice.
United's partner is Howard Young Health Care, which includes a 65-bed hospital in Woodruff, Wis., a home-care unit and other services. Woodruff is 80 miles north of Marshfield.
The new company will be known as Northwoods Health Plan. United and Howard Young are expected to own equal shares of the new company, although details still are being discussed. The agreement is expected to be completed this month, and products could be marketed by year-end, United spokesman Tom Luljak said.
One of United Wisconsin's strategies is developing partnerships in rural markets, Luljak said. The company already has health-plan ventures with Midelfort Clinic in Eau Claire, Wis., which is part of Mayo Health System, and with University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, Madison.