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Published: Monday, 1/23/2012

Growth predicted for HealthSpan

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A year after Mercy started merging its preferred provider organization into the HealthSpan LLC network, the hospital chain expects more employers with self-funded health plans will be attracted to the wider array of services.

Mercy merged the Physicians Health Collaborative network, which provides employers with self-funded health plans access to hospitals and doctors, into HealthSpan about a year ago. HealthSpan is run by Mercy parent Catholic Health Partners, and the 21-year-old network with 110,000 members has more specialists plus wellness, employee assistance, disease management, and other programs, said Louella Riddle, manager of HealthSpan's northwest Ohio operations.

"It does open up a lot more access," Ms. Riddle said. "They have significant experience in what they're doing."

HealthSpan has about 2,500 members from 11 self-funded employers in northwest Ohio, Ms. Riddle said.

Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center and all other Mercy hospitals, St. Luke's Hospital in Maumee, and Wood County Hospital in Bowling Green are part of the northwest Ohio network.

HealthSpan works with third-party administrators of the self-funded health plans, through which employers pay medical claims instead of using an insurer.

Among employer groups in the preferred provider organization is Lucas County, which started offering employees Mercy's Physicians Health Collaborative as a third health-plan option in 2009. Enrollment for Physicians Health was 553 employees out of about 3,200 last year, up from 19 employees in 2009 and 27 in 2010, said Bridgette Kabat, the county commissioners' chief of staff.

Last year's jump probably resulted largely from employees being able to get 90 percent of medical costs covered, which was more than with ProMedica's Paramount Health Care or FrontPath Health Coalition, Ms. Kabat said.

Employees have reported the Mercy network has good customer service, Ms. Kabat said. Personally, however, she opts for FrontPath because she has doctors both with ProMedica and Mercy, so she pays more for that access, she said.

"That's sort of the option you have to weigh," Ms. Kabat said.

Lucas County employees have the same three options for the upcoming yearlong period, which runs from March 1 through Feb. 28, 2013, Ms. Kabat said. It is too early to tell whether employee participation in what is now HealthSpan will increase again, she said.

"I don't think we had anyone who was disappointed by their choice," Ms. Kabat said.

The transition to HealthSpan from Physicians Health Collaborative is nearly complete, Ms. Riddle said. Physicians Health was started in 2005 after Mercy ended its insurance company, Family Health Plan, she said.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at: jmckinnon@theblade.com or 419-724-6087.



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