This story from the Los Angeles Times could be a fascinating harbinger of things to come in other states. Anthem’s California branch just sliced out two prestigious health institutions from the options of city of Los Angeles employees, saying they would prove too expensive. By wiping the UCLA doctors and the Cedars-Sinai hospital off the options list, Anthem is making the kind of risky choice increasingly likely in the modern health system. (Original link courtesy of a compilation in Kaiser Health News.)
Would Colorado’s major employers and insurance companies further limit their employees’ hospital choices if they could save a lot of money? Of course. As we wrote about earlier this year, northern Colorado is one of the most visible places these battles are playing out, as Kaiser teams up with Banner Health’s northern hospitals, and Anthem joins with the Poudre Valley/University system to create a new HMO.
University of Colorado Health extended its reach into Colorado Springs with these kinds of arrangements in mind, among other possibilities. If a large Colorado employer, public or private, wants full Front Range coverage for its workers, University can now step up and offer one system. Insurance companies, meanwhile, will be taking pitches from various hospital groups, and calculating whether adding some and dropping others makes the best deal for their employer contracts.
We’ve also written about local hospitals buying up doctor practices left and right, and hiring more “hospitalist” doctors directly, to gain further control over their destiny. The Kaiser News compilation has bad news on that front as well, with a Charlotte newspaper reporting wildly inflated charges for the same cancer treatments after hospitals take over private doctor practices.