Rural Wisconsin hospitals got the U.S. Justice Department's go-ahead to negotiate jointly with health plans. The hospitals contend they compete for patients with regional medical centers, not each other. In a business review letter released last month, federal antitrust reviewers agreed and said the plan wasn't a threat to competition. Business review letters are issued when companies ask for the department's opinion of proposed actions. The 21 hospitals involved already own a shared-service corporation, the Rural Wisconsin Health Care Cooperative. Its RWHC Network would contract with health plans as a single agent. A third-party administrator, probably the cooperative, would collect, analyze and aggregate hospital data to recommend contracting terms. The hospitals would be free to contract individually and join other networks.
Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. said last month that it would sell 50% ownership of its four hospitals in the United Kingdom to PPP Healthcare Group, a British insurance company. Terms of the transactions weren't disclosed, but Columbia said it will continue to manage the facilities. PPP executives said they wanted to purchase a stake in the hospitals in an effort to position the insurer well in anticipation of growth of managed care in the United Kingdom. The hospitals have more than 600 beds and 1,500 employees.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Mo.) has agreed to refund $1.7 million to policyholders for not sharing discounts it negotiated with providers from 1988 to 1994. In a settlement negotiated with the insurance commissioners of Missouri and Kansas, the Blues also agreed to pay interest on the overcharges to consumers, plus a $150,000 fine. More than 28,000 policyholders in the Kansas City area are eligible for refunds. The Blues said it "neither admits nor acknowledges any fault or liability" regarding the method it used to calculate discounts.
Harold L. Light has retired after two decades of service as president and chief executive officer of Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y. Light stepped down Nov. 15 and his successor, Donald F. Snell, took the helm last week. Light assumed the hospital's top post in 1977, and in the following years he led a $160 million modernization program and forged alliances with State University of New York Health Science Center in Brooklyn and New York's Mount Sinai Medical Center. A fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, Light served as chairman of the Greater New York Hospital Association in 1982 and 1990 and chairman of the Hospital Association of New York State in 1986. Prior to joining Long Island College Hospital, Snell was executive director of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Presbyterian Medical Center of Philadelphia.
Picker International has snared a five-year, sole-source agreement to provide multivendor equipment and technology management services to Louisville, Ky.-based MedEcon Services, the third-largest group purchasing organization. The estimated value of the agreement wasn't disclosed. Under the deal, Cleveland-based Picker becomes the exclusive multivendor service provider for medical imaging, biomedical and patient monitoring equipment to MedEcon's 1,076 hospital members. In addition, the deal heightens Picker's status as a diagnostic imaging equipment supplier. Already one of MedEcon's preferred suppliers, Picker will likely "contribute more business" under the arrangement, said Henry D. Sutherlin, president of MedEcon's Direct Medical subsidiary.
HHS has approved a three-year demonstration in which HCFA will reimburse providers for telemedicine services at 57 Medicare-certified facilities. Telemedicine centers in Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina and West Virginia will take part in the demonstration, which will focus on consultations between specialists at medical centers and primary-care providers directly treating Medicare beneficiaries in remote locations. HHS also approved 19 telemedicine projects worth $42 million in rural, suburban and inner-city locations.