Cooper University Health Care Invites Other Providers to Join Insurance Venture

Leaders from Camden, N.J.-based Cooper University Health Care, which purchased a 20 percent stake in Independence Blue Cross-affiliated health insurer AmeriHealth, say the deal is a win for the provider, the insurer and consumers in the South New Jersey market to reduce costs and increase access to care. During a conference call announcing the deal, leaders also announced there was room at the table for more providers to join in the partnership.

"By the way," said George Norcross, chairman of Cooper's board of trustees, while discussing the anticipated benefits of the share purchase, "we welcome the opportunity to bring other partners in the region to enter this partnership."

Mr. Norcross and other officials haven't shared details as to whether they have yet engaged in talks with other providers to enter into the provider-payor arrangement Cooper established with AmeriHealth, but they made clear the door was open. He said Cooper could purchase more equity in the future.

"We want to lead the way in transforming the delivery of healthcare across this region," said Dan Hilferty, president and CEO of Independence Blue Cross, the parent company of AmeriHealth. "We know the only way to successfully reform healthcare is to bring the best minds and work together."

AmeriHealth has about 210,000 policyholders in New Jersey, said AmeriHealth New Jersey President and CEO Judith Roman. Cobranded preferred provider plans reflecting the Cooper partnership that emphasize affordability will be offered to the insured, self-insured and Medicare populations. A tiered structure of plans will require smaller out-of-pocket expenses for those that stay in-network at Cooper's hospital or 100 outpatient clinics, Ms. Roman said. An accountable care organization will also be created through the partnership.

The three goals behind the organizations' strategy are improving patient satisfaction, reducing inpatient utilization and cutting back on emergency department care that could be provided in lower-cost settings, Ms. Roman said.

While as many as one-third of New Jersey hospitals lost money last year, Cooper's Senior Vice President of Growth and Development Eli Winkler said the health system grew 6 percent. The latest strategy to bring affordable health coverage to residents as federal subsidies and mandates take effect next year may help it boost its patient base significantly across the region.

More Articles on Hospital-Payor Relationships:

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