Undaunted by troubles facing its proposed acquisition of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Ohio, Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. last week signed a letter of intent to buy a three-hospital system based in Columbus, Ohio.
The Nashville-based chain made the announcement two days after the Ohio insurance department rejected Columbia's proposed $299.5 million acquisition of the Cleveland-based Blues plan (See story, p. 3).
The not-for-profit Doctors Hospital Foundation owns the three hospitals, with a total of 450 beds and more than $250 million in annual revenues. Financial terms weren't disclosed.
The three hospitals will be converted into tax-paying for-profit facilities. Proceeds from the sale, which is expected to close within four months, will go to the Doctors Hospital Foundation.
The three hospitals are Doctors Hospital North and Doctors Hospital West, both in Columbus, and Doctors Hospital of Nelsonville (Ohio). The deal will give Columbia seven Ohio hospitals.
Meanwhile, developments in the Columbia-Blues deal continued to break late last Friday. Among them:
The national Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association awarded the Cleveland plan's Blues license to Cincinnati-based Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield. The association stripped the Cleveland plan of its right to use the Blues name after the deal with Columbia ran into legal trouble.
The national association also said it would ask a federal appeals court to lift a stay that allowed the Cleveland plan to hold onto its Blues license. A lower court decision allowed the national association to take action against the Cleveland plan, but the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals postponed enforcement of the decision until it heard the plan's appeal.
Two Ohio newspapers reported that the insurance department is seeking permission from a state court to take control of the Cleveland plan.
One of the newspapers reported that Ohio Blues Chairman John Burry sued the insurance department, challenging its rejection of the sale.
A day after the state's decision, Columbia' stock fell 63 cents on March 13, closing at $43.50 per share.