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The Times
  • Insurance driving force behind proposed Rome-Bassett affiliation

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  • ROME — If a proposed affiliation with Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown is approved, Rome Memorial Hospital patients will see new signs.
    Otherwise, they probably won’t notice much change, said Dr. William Streck, president and chief executive officer of Bassett Healthcare Network.
    “Most of our affiliations are characterized by the lack of dramatic change and the gradual building of programs and relationships that have been very fruitful thus far,” he said.
    The proposed affiliation is being driven by something beyond the view of most patients — insurance contracts. To keep up with changes in the way hospitals are paid, both hospitals want to position themselves as part of a geographically large network offering cradle-to-grave, A-to-Z services.
    Such networks can sign risk-based insurance contracts, in which the hospital systems make more money by keeping patients healthy and costs down.
    Bassett is offering one such plan on the state health plan exchange through a partnership with Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, a plan that could someday expand to cover Oneida County.
    Affiliation is a big word in health care these days. Faxton-St. Luke’s Healthcare and St. Elizabeth Medical Center are waiting for final regulatory approvals to affiliate under a parent corporation. Unlike the potential Rome-Bassett affiliation, this affiliation, which is driven in part by shaky finances, would put the parent corporation in charge of operations at both hospitals. The hospitals would, however, retain enough autonomy to allow St. Elizabeth to remain Catholic and Faxton-St. Luke’s secular.
    Rome Memorial Hospital would retain its operational independence and separate finances if its affiliation with Bassett becomes final. But Bassett would appoint board members as needed (the current board would stay) and a replacement should the current CEO decide to leave his job.
    Over time, Rome Memorial officials are hoping for one big change that patients would notice — an increase in the number of primary care providers in the area. Being part of the Bassett network would help recruit new physicians to private practice or to hospital-owned practices, said President and CEO Basil Ariglio.
    “Physicians graduating from today’s medical schools recognize that the health care environment is changing,” he said. “Being part of a network allows (Rome Memorial) to leverage Bassett’s reputation as a physician-led organization and provide physician candidates with a measure of reassurance that we’re preparing for the future.”
    Those doctors would be crucial if Bassett decides to expand its health plan to Oneida County. Bassett Gold Select currently is available in Herkimer, Otsego and Delaware counties, Right now, Bassett’s only presence in Oneida County is a primary care practice in Clinton.
    Health plan enrollees pay less out of pocket if they see Bassett providers.
    “We’ll see how it works and then next year, we’ll plan to expand it into other counties now that we have some experience,” Streck said. “It’s a way to offer services to people who don’t have insurance.”
    Page 2 of 2 - The Bassett network already includes six hospitals, more than two dozen health centers, 19 school-based health centers, a nursing home, a home health agency and a medical equipment supplier in an eight-county region.
    Bassett Select is not Bassett’s first foray into insurance. The hospital offered a self-insurance plan similar to modern HMOs back in the 1930s and launched the region’s first HMO, the now defunct Community Health Plan of Bassett, in 1986.
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