LIFEGUARD: Jumps into National Health Plan Venture
San Jose-based Lifeguard Inc. is gearing up to launch a nationwide network of local HMOs in hopes of one day offering "one national plan of about 100 providers, representing two or three of the top local HMOs or preferred-provider plans in every market." Lifeguard executives are optimistic that the national product will eliminate companies' logistical "nightmare" in negotiating HMO benefits for satellite offices. Now, said Lifeguard CEO Mark Hyde, companies must either sign on with giants, such as Aetna and Cigna, or create separate plans for each site. The goal of the venture, the San Francisco Business Times reports, is to link all of a company's employees under one HMO. The Bay Area HMO has already signed 30 HMOs into its network, called PlanLink. Allianz Life Insurance Co. will "both manage and insure the network, and the Community Care Network" will operate the national PPO. "We've been working for several years to offer a national solution for the market, to eliminate the border problem," Hyde said. The national network will give Lifeguard "a new competitive" edge, he added, while still "allowing it to focus on its strength in the Bay Area." In Northern California, the HMO trails only Kaiser Permanente in the Alameda County market, and it is the third-largest HMO in the Santa Clara market. Last year, the not-for-profit pulled in $5.3 million in pretax income on $370 million in revenue. Although Hyde said the venture is "growing in every county where we're involved," he cautioned, "I would like to see more HMOs signed up and participating before we declare victory" (Bole, 4/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.