Woodland Hills, Calif.-based WellPoint Health Networks, for-profit parent of Blue Cross of California, has formed a joint venture with not-for-profit Blue Cross of Idaho. The arrangement is a step beyond the business ties WellPoint has with several Blues plans across the country.
But there are no merger discussions under way, said Max Brown, WellPoint senior vice president. "It's not a conscious goal at this point," he said. "These things have to evolve over time."
Such caution is the result of the increased scrutiny directed at the conversions of health plans and hospitals to for-profit status, Brown said.
The venture, named Idaho Benefits Administration, will help the Idaho plan target multistate corporations headquartered in Idaho. Large employers will have access to WellPoint networks and products available in other parts of the country, which operate under the name Unicare.
WellPoint will also help the Idaho Blues put together a dental plan and create new dental benefit coverage and other specialty products.
Blue Cross of Idaho, based in Boise, serves 300,000 enrollees.
WellPoint has business arrangements with about 10 other Blues plans across the country. "They're arm's-length customers who buy our products" including pharmacy, dental and behavioral health products, Brown said.
But with the Idaho plan, WellPoint will jointly manage products and share in financial results, Brown said.