UW Health, UnityPoint Health-Meriter Exploring Joint Operating Agreement

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Affiliated Health Plans Also Considering a Combination

Close alignments to increase access to broader networks and drive value for patients 


Madison and Sauk City, Wisconsin - Leaders at UnityPoint Health - Meriter, UnityPoint Health, UW Health, Physicians Plus Insurance Corp., and Unity Health Plans Insurance Corp. (Unity) and Gundersen Health Plan (GHP) have signed two non-binding letters of intent (LOI) to explore potential collaboration between the organizations. This is the first step in a larger, complex process that provides the opportunity for the organizations to explore potential benefits for patients, families and the community.


One LOI describes the exploration of a joint operating agreement (JOA) between UnityPoint Health - Meriter and UW Health to deepen the existing collaboration between the organizations in caring for patients. Under the outline of the agreement, the delivery systems would align their finances to create an integrated clinical enterprise with a shared strategic direction for all of their facilities.


"We are eager to explore the benefits we can deliver together to patients in Madison and the broader region," said Dr. Alan Kaplan, CEO of UW Health. "By more closely aligning our two organizations, our leaders can increase access to care for patients and further build a smart, efficient delivery system that optimizes the best of both organizations and cares for patients where and when they need care."


In the health plan LOI, Physicians Plus, and Unity and GHP have agreed to explore a possible combination to form a more comprehensive, sustainable and competitive health insurance organization.


"The possible combination of Unity and GHP, and Physicians Plus will increase access to broader networks and create a more competitive, sustainable range of insurance products that meet diverse needs of members and employers," said Terry Bolz, president and CEO of Unity and GHP.


Hospital Collaboration


UW Health and UnityPoint Health - Meriter have a long history of collaborating on the delivery of excellent patient care. Some recent examples include a joint operating agreement for Mother-Baby Care and closer ties among providers of urology and hospitalist services.


"Our proposed collaboration is about improving the experience for members, patients and their families in the region,” said Art Nizza, president and CEO of UnityPoint Health - Meriter. "As we have demonstrated in our shared Mother-Baby Care program, we can drive more value for patients and the community when we work closely together."


The agreement also envisions greater alignment of clinicians. Over a period of time, specialty care providers employed by UnityPoint Health - Meriter would join UW Health to create a single, coordinated clinical enterprise.


With these alignments in place, UW Health would be able to solve capacity shortages on its 600 Highland Avenue campus in the most efficient way possible for the community, reserving the Highland Avenue campus for providing tertiary and quaternary care in Madison and furthering its status as a destination medical center throughout the region and country.


While UW Health and UnityPoint Health - Meriter would be tightly aligned under the agreement, UnityPoint Health - Meriter would remain a senior affiliate of UnityPoint Health. Based in West Des Moines, Iowa, UnityPoint Health is the parent organization of UnityPoint Health - Meriter and Physicians Plus.


Insurance Collaboration


In addition to increasing access to broader networks, potentially combining Physicians Plus, and Unity and GHP would allow the health plans to share best practices that further enhance services to members; to run and manage their organizations more efficiently; and, overall, to create a stronger competitor able to thrive in a challenging marketplace.


"Changes to the health insurance landscape are prompting health insurers to explore ways to gain efficiency and ensure their long-term viability," said Troy Caraway, CEO of Physicians Plus and a senior vice president of UnityPoint Health. "Greater access to more in-network providers and facilities would help meet rising consumer expectations regarding the cost, coordination and experience of care."


Next Steps


With the two non-binding letters of intent signed, the organizations now can begin exploring potential collaboration in greater detail. The organizations are working toward the signing of definitive agreements by the end of the year and would hope to conclude all the steps necessary to cement the potential collaborations in 2017. To learn more, visit www.collaborationforcare.org

Date Published: 06/30/2016

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