National Blues offers electronic network. Through a partnership with two electronic information-services providers announced last week, the nation's 58 independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans are taking a giant step toward unification. The partnership allows plans to create a seamless product appealing to multistate employers. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is partnering with Network Management Services and Health Benefits America to offer BluesConnect, an electronic network allowing national purchasers to cover their employees under one Blues plan rather than separate regional plans. Twenty-two Blues plans have joined, and others are expected to follow quickly, said Patrick Hays, the association's president and chief executive officer. BluesConnect provides services such as automated enrollment, consolidated billing, a centralized eligibility database, and electronic connection with employers' payrolls and human resources information systems.
Panel at work on `consumer bill of rights.' The White House's healthcare quality commission met for the first time last week, and, at the behest of President Clinton, made completion of a "consumer bill of rights" its first priority. At last week's meeting, the panel members, who represent managed-care plans, labor, provider groups, businesses, state governments, academia and consumer advocate groups, often found themselves pushing agendas that left them at odds with one another. The 34-member commission is scheduled to complete its final report by March 1998. However, in a letter, Clinton asked the panel to finish the consumer bill of rights by this fall. The bill of rights includes not allowing inappropriate financial incentives to interfere with patient care and procedures for the timely resolution of disputes between beneficiaries and managed-care plans. According to its charter, the commission will review how rapid changes in healthcare affect quality, consumer protection and availability of care. At last week's meeting, commissioners affiliated with managed-care plans seemed wary of creating an overly regulatory model.
McDermott to head NCQHC. The National Committee for Quality Health Care last week appointed Catherine McDermott as its new president beginning June 1. She replaces Pamela Bailey, who will stay on as president of the committee's Healthcare Leadership Council. McDermott joins the NCQHC from Washington-based Grantmakers in Health, where she was founding president, a member of the board and chief executive officer. During her 15-year tenure, McDermott was responsible for more than $1 million in annual fund raising, as well as overseeing health philanthropy. At the NCQHC, McDermott will direct program and membership activities, including the National Quality Health Care Award.
Pa. Blue Cross boards OK merger. The boards of Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Wilkes-Barre, and Capital Blue Cross, Harrisburg, Pa., have approved their merger, a year after the insurers signed a letter of intent to combine. Expected to be completed by Jan. 1, the merger would create a company with annual revenues of $2 billion. The combined plans would insure more than 2 million Pennsylvanians in 34 counties covering the eastern half of the state, except metropolitan Philadelphia. The plans' next moves will be to develop and approve a definitive agreement and then submit a merger plan to state and federal regulators for review.
Ariz. HMOs end AHCCCS pacts. Two HMOs have terminated their contracts with the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, leaving 17,000 Medi-caid enrollees to find new coverage. Intergroup Select will end its coverage effective June 1, while Regional AHCCCS terminated on May 1. Most of the enrollees will be transferred to Phoenix Health Plan, which is affiliated with Phoenix-based hospital operator PMH Health Resources. The move would nearly double Phoenix Health's enrollment through AHCCCS, to 39,000 from 22,000. Intergroup Select, a unit of Woodland Hills, Calif.-based Foundation Health Systems, left the program because it was dissatisfied with its enrollment of 7,600, which represented only 2% of its business. The AHCCCS enrolls 460,000 Medicaid recipients into 11 managed-care plans.