Managed care co-opted the protected space of providers last week when health IT company Ingenix announced that it had acquired the Lewin Group, a national healthcare and human services consulting firm.
Financial terms of the deal, which closed June 5, were not disclosed.
As a subsidiary of insurance giant UnitedHealth Group, Ingenixs acquisition of a consulting firm widely used by provider organizations was all the more interesting and raised questions as to whether the Lewin Group would continue in its supporting role to provider groups.
Over the years the Lewin Group, based in Falls Church, Va., has earned a reputation as the go to firm for beleaguered organizations in need of reports and research to support sometimes controversial positions and issues. For example, in 2005 the American Hospital Association commissioned the Lewin Group to study the skyrocketing costs of healthcare. The study subsequently blamed increased hospital spending on the rising costs of goods, the workforce shortage and greater demand for hospital services (Aug. 29, 2005, p. 8).
The previous year, the AHA unveiled a study, also conducted by the Lewin Group, which examined the economic contribution hospitals bring to their communities. The study arrived as the hospital industry prepared for congressional scrutiny of allegedly aggressive billing practices.
At deadline, officials at the AHA had not responded to a request for an interview.
The Health Industry Group Purchasing Association, the trade group for GPOs, likewise commissioned the Lewin Group in 2002 and 2003 to study the savings GPOs provide hospitals and other providers. Those studies similarly arrived as the GPO industry faced congressional scrutiny over its allegedly anti-competitive business practices.
Lewin has had a number of ownership changes over the years and continues to produce high-quality analytical services, said Curtis Rooney, president of HIGPA, in an e-mail. I dont imagine this change in ownership will affect the quality of their work.
Besides possibly demonstrating UnitedHealths interest in developing greater thought-leadership capabilities, the deal may also signal its belief that healthcare analytical services will be at a premium in the next few years and therefore a good investment, Rooney added.
The Lewin Group generates approximately two-thirds of its revenue from the public sector, including federal, state and local organizations that provide human and healthcare services, said Ingenix spokeswoman Joan Schimml in an e-mail. That is rounded out by services to providers, payers, associations, foundations and pharmaceutical and devicemakers. The number of provider and payer clients is approximately the same, she said. Schimml said Ingenix does not anticipate significant adverse impact on payers served by the Lewin Group. A very concerted effort of outreach to all clients has been made to ensure Lewin independence. So far there has been little to no push-back other than acknowledgement of the combined strength of a public sector consulting and technology advantage, she added.
In announcing the acquisition, officials said in a news release that the Lewin Group would operate with editorial independence. The acquisition would strengthen Ingenixs expertise in healthcare data methodologies, analytics and software and tools, while it would provide the Lewin Group with access to Ingenixs financial and clinical data resources, and health analytics and technology, officials said.