Sunday, June 13, 2004

St. E exits Healthcare Partners

Move will give hospital more freedom in health plans

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - St. Elizabeth Medical Center plans to pull out of the Catholic Healthcare Partners group by year's end.

The change is expected to have minimal impact on services offered by St. Elizabeth but could have a future effect on how St. Elizabeth participates in health insurance networks.

St. Elizabeth, founded in 1861, runs Northern Kentucky's largest and most advanced hospital at its South campus in Edgewood. It also runs hospitals in Covington and Williamstown.

The Cincinnati-based Catholic Healthcare Partners includes 30 hospitals, 14 nursing homes and other services in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Tennessee and Pennsylvania.

Its members include the five Mercy Health Partners hospitals in Ohio. St. Elizabeth joined the partnership in 1998. But St. Elizabeth never did fully merge with the larger organization.

St. Elizabeth officials refused to confirm or discuss the change, despite reports published Friday about the decision, saying they had agreed to discuss the matter only in conjunction with a Catholic Healthcare Partners spokesman who was unavailable.

But according to financial reports on the Catholic Healthcare Partners' Web site, the change was approved in May by the St. Elizabeth board of trustees and takes effect Jan. 1.

As a fully independent organization, St. Elizabeth would be free to cut its own deals with health plans, which could expand how many people could use St. Elizabeth hospitals.

Or it could drop health plans that offer unfavorable payments, which could reduce how many people would have access to St. Elizabeth facilities.



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