AUSTIN, Texas—The board of managers for Central Health, the healthcare district for Travis County, voted to form an HMO earlier this month. The board expects to better manage and coordinate care, and to diversify Central Health's revenue base, according to a news release from the district. “Based on more than a year's worth of research and study, we believe we have the infrastructure, know-how and resolve to create a successful plan that provides an efficient program of care for its enrollees,” said Central Health President and CEO Patricia Young Brown, in the news release. Central Health officials believe one of the advantages of the HMO is that care can become more seamless for patients in the plan. “Rather than maintain separate systems for different populations, the new HMO will allow for a more efficient system of integrated care. As patients within the system frequently move in and out of coverage or across various levels of coverage depending upon their financial situations, consistent, quality care will be available,” the release states. The move also comes in part in response to a decision by Texas' Health and Human Services Commission to propose an expanded program to allow delivery of Medicaid through HMOs. Seton Family of Hospitals, a division of Ascension Health, based in Austin, also is considering starting an HMO serving the Travis County area, according to the system.
Regional News/South: Central Health votes to form HMO, and other news
CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—UNC Health Care and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina announced they will jointly open a medical practice to care for about 5,000 patients with chronic conditions insured by the Blues plan. The practice, slated to open in the fourth quarter of this year, aims to deliver exceptionally coordinated, high quality care to patients with chronic conditions, including coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes, obstructive lung disease, major depression and asthma. Care will be managed across settings and provider specialties, and the practice will be in either Orange or Durham counties. “We're in an era of change in healthcare, so let's work together to make positive change,” said Dr. William Roper, CEO of UNC Health Care. “This innovative approach with education, patient support and self-management is one important step toward making healthcare less mysterious and more effective.” In 2010, Roper was No. 98 on Modern Healthcare's list of the 100 Most Powerful People in Healthcare. Laboratory and pharmacy services, mental-health care and nutrition counseling will be offered on-site. Case management, group visits, extended hours, advanced health information technology and nontraditional patient visits, such as e-visits and home monitoring, also will be available.
TISHOMINGO, Okla.—Johnston Memorial Hospital was sold and has become part of Sisters of Mercy Health System, Chesterfield, Mo. Renamed Mercy Hospital Tishomingo, the 15-bed hospital will be operated and leased by not-for-profit Mercy as a critical-access hospital with two physicians, two physician assistants and a staff of more than 40, according to a Mercy news release. The land, building and equipment were purchased by RSE Enterprises, Ada, Okla., from for-profit First Physicians Capital Group, Beverly Hills, Calif., for $1.6 million, said Nancy Corbett, spokeswoman for Mercy. Mary Owen, who will continue in her role as the hospital's administrator, said in the news release, “Without Mercy and other caring people who were willing to make this happen, there's no telling how long our rural hospital could have survived.” Mercy's release said its Oklahoma rural facility lineup now includes: Healdton (Okla.) Mercy Hospital, Mercy Hospital El Reno (Okla.) and Mercy Memorial Health Center, Ardmore. Mercy also manages the rural facilities of Mercy Health/Love County Hospital and Clinic in Marietta and Valley View Regional Hospital in Ada.
HOUSTON—Signature Hospital Corp. announced that it is planning to sell its three hospitals and wind down its operations by the end of 2011. Signature already has a pending deal to sell one of its hospitals, 194-bed St. Joseph's Hospital, Parkersburg, W.Va., to West Virginia United Health System, Fairmont, for $100 million. The company hopes to complete the deal during the first quarter. Signature also has hired FTI Consulting to explore the sales of its two other hospitals—68-bed Gulf Coast Medical Center, Wharton, Texas, and 83-bed Pampa (Texas) Regional Medical Center—and assist in operating those hospitals in the meantime, according to the release. Charles Miller, co-founder and CEO of the company, has announced his retirement effective Jan. 31, according to Signature. The company was formed in 2005 with $150 million in equity backing from an investor group led by investment bank Goldman Sachs and was originally headquartered in Dallas.
PARKERSBURG, W.Va.—Mountain State Blue Cross and Blue Shield has changed its name to Highmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield West Virginia. The name change reflects the increasingly close 12-year partnership between the West Virginia insurer and Highmark, Pittsburgh, that includes the power of the latter to appoint the West Virginia insurer's board of directors. The new name is the only change slated for the West Virginia company, which covers more than 500,000 beneficiaries. Its Pennsylvania namesake has about 4.7 million beneficiaries. The rebranding was always a part of the affiliation plan, according to a company official. Highmark and Highmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield West Virginia are not-for-profit insurers.
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