Eight HMOs partially or wholly owned by VHA hospitals have formed their own alliance to exchange information.
At least initially, HMO Alliance won't market its members as a unit, said John W. Jones, its chairman and president of Partners National Health Plans of North Carolina. Instead, the alliance will provide a forum for collaborative efforts such as best-practices development, training and group purchasing.
The HMOs began meeting in 1995 as a VHA work group. They formed a separate limited liability company in late June and adopted strategic priorities in August.
"It seemed like several of us were going down the same path," said Ted Wille, vice president for Sentara Health System in Virginia Beach, Va., the majority owner of Sentara Alternative Delivery Systems. "Everyone wrestled with the same issues: How do you purchase reinsurance, given you're an integrated system? What sort of demand-management programs are best suited for an integrated system?"
VHA, which contributed $216,000 to the alliance, is a minority shareholder. It was involved because about 100 of its members hold ownership positions in HMOs, said Cathy Eddy, chief operating officer of HMO Alliance, which shares VHA offices in Irving, Texas.
Future shareholders won't have to be VHA members. But they should be majority-owned by providers and enroll at least 50,000 people in HMOs, Eddy said. She said she hopes to recruit four new shareholders this year and as many as eight in 1997.
The founding shareholders contributed $50,000 each to the alliance. The price of membership will go up to $62,500 next year, Eddy said.
The new alliance differs significantly from VHA's money-losing managed-care venture with Aetna Life & Casualty Co., Jones said. Its Partners National Health Plans was formed to help hospitals manage and market HMOs. After a five-year effort, VHA sold its interest in the venture to Aetna in 1990.
Sentara and four other HMOs in the alliance, however, were developed with the help of Partners.
Another group with a mission similar to HMO Alliance is in operation in New Jersey. But it is for group-model plans, instead of provider-owned companies, Jones said. HMO Alliance members have 1 million enrollees and primarily are mixed-model or IPA plans.
"Our charter members are really strong local HMOs out in the market operating more or less in the vacuum," Jones added.