UNITED HEALTHCARE: PLANS EXPANSION IN WASHINGTON STATE
In an effort to "grab for a much bigger slice of the localThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
health care pie," United HealthCare Corp. is planning to increase
its presence in Washington state. PUGET SOUND BUSINESS JOURNAL
reports that the Minneapolis-based national health services
company "has been quietly preparing itself since last year's
acquisition of The MetraHealth Cos.," which gave United
HealthCare "an instant base of some 200,000 Washington
customers." According to Michael Weeks, director of
MetraHealth's operations, the insurer is currently building a
network of about 7,000 physicians in the state. Weeks said the
company is also preparing to apply for a license to act as a
health care services contractor, and that it may also offer a
"zero-premium Medicare policy" and a local version of United's
"open access" HMO. C. Emery Dameron, CEO of United's Northwest
and Northern California health plan operations, "said the
additional license will give the company more flexibility with
products and relationships with physicians and other health care
providers." He said, "Our intent is to offer as wide an array of
products and services as possible." Currently, MetraHealth
offers an exclusive provider organization, a PPO, a point-of-
service plan and managed indemnity plans in the state. Weeks
said MetraHealth is likely to change its name to United
HealthCare (Neurath, 12/6-12 issue).
LAB NETWORK: In other Washington state business news, nine
hospitals "have joined their laboratories into a joint venture
called PacLab Network Laboratories." A tenth member of the
system, Pathology Associates Medical Laboratories of Bellevue, is
the "Northwest's largest independent testing lab for less common,
higher-level tests." PUGET SOUND BUSINESS JOURNAL reports that
six of the hospitals are owned by Providence Health System and
the other three by Franciscan Health System. Udo Koellmann,
general manager of PacLab, said that "about three years ago" the
hospitals realized that their "business base would disappear"
unless they could offer the "geographic breadth demanded by
managed care" companies. Skip Steffen, chair of PacLab's
executive management group, said that the new system is "the
first true statewide integrated network of laboratories"
(Neurath, 12/6-12 issue).