Colorado hospital CEO: Intermountain's insurance plan 'keeping us up at night'

The CEO of an independent community hospital in Colorado is raising concerns about Intermountain Health's intent to expand its insurance plan into the state next year.

"Threats from larger health systems in and around our communities are a few of the main items keeping us up at night," Chris Thomas, president and CEO of Grand Junction, Colo.-based Community Hospital, said. "In our region, [Intermountain] acquired the largest hospital, and is now bringing their health insurance products into our market. If they are successful at growing the number of lives covered by their health insurance products, we fear they will block access to our hospital through tiered products, driving more of the covered lives into their hospital."

Mr. Thomas delivered his comments at a June 8 Senate Finance Committee hearing on consolidation within the healthcare industry.

Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Health merged with Broomfield, Colo.-based SCL Health in April 2022, adding eight SCL hospitals to the health system. The merger included SCL's St. Mary's Medical Center, which is one of two hospitals in Grand Junction.

Intermountain Health is also planning to expand its insurance plan, SelectHealth, into Colorado in 2024, which the health system has described as its "biggest opportunity for growth." SelectHealth will offer Medicare Advantage and individual plans on the Colorado exchange, pending regulatory approvals.

"SelectHealth has a unique opportunity with a lot of experience that helps us in this space, and we can scale faster than brick-and-mortar can," Curt Howell, SelectHealth's Colorado market president, told Becker's in April. It's probably not a great time to build a hospital, but we probably can bring on half a million to a million members in Colorado over the next five to 10 years."

SelectHealth currently has more than 1 million members across Utah, Idaho and Nevada. 

"Our concern is that if they come in and develop insurance products in our community, obviously St. Mary's and Intermountain facilities will be tier one facilities," Mr. Thomas told Becker's. "If they do achieve that many lives in the state of Colorado, we fear that's going to take away from our number of commercially insured patients."

Mr. Thomas said Community Hospital is working with other independent hospitals in the state to build an integrated network that can partner with a large commercial payer.

Editor's note: Mr. Thomas did not name Intermountain Health in his comments before the Senate Finance Committee, but confirmed with Becker's he was referring to the health system.

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