UCHealth and Intermountain Healthcare are creating a “clinically integrated network” that gives patients whose insurance contracts with it access to their physicians, clinics and hospitals
By some measures, the Denver metro area has one of the most competitive hospital markets in the country. Large health systems duke it out every year for supremacy in the multibillion-dollar marketplace.
But now, two of those heavyweight health systems — locally based UCHealth and Utah-based Intermountain Healthcare — have decided to … cooperate? The systems earlier this month announced plans to form what is known as a “clinically integrated network.”
While that may sound like the hospital giants are planning to combine resources on the clinical side, it’s actually more akin to forming one giant insurance network. The health systems will remain separate, and they will continue to compete against one another to attract patients.
The new network will bring together roughly 700 primary care physicians, hundreds of clinics and dozens of hospitals — all available and in network for consumers whose health insurance contracts with the new clinically integrated network. And, not coincidentally, the systems announced that Intermountain’s SelectHealth insurance plan will jump into the market in Colorado for Medicare consumers as well as people who buy insurance on their own. SelectHealth will utilize the new network.
UCHealth’s and Intermountain’s respective leaders said the new clinically integrated network will improve the quality of health care that people receive in Colorado while reducing the costs of that care.
“We are excited to partner with Intermountain to advance these goals and to give Coloradans a new option for their health insurance that prioritizes value-based care,” Elizabeth Concordia, UCHealth’s president and CEO, said in a statement announcing the new network. “Together, we will help improve the overall health of the communities we serve.”
But consumer advocates question whether that will actually happen or whether this is another play by large health systems to get even larger — and take more money for themselves.
“If they’re essentially using this as negotiating power or as a mechanism to shirk all other insurance carriers, that’s a concern,” said Adam Fox, the deputy director of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative.