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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Rockwood Health System offering new insurance plan

The Rockwood Health System is expanding into the insurance business by offering plans to Spokane-area companies and employees that would erase co-pays and deductibles.

The moves are designed to tighten the financial and medical bonds between Rockwood, businesses and patients, according to the company. The plans could result in cost savings to businesses and employees as Rockwood becomes more vertically integrated, offering insurance plans, primary and specialty care through its network of clinics, and hospital care with its Deaconess and Valley hospitals.

The Rockwood Affinity Plan is the clinic’s second insurance initiative in the past two months focused on bringing more patients to Rockwood’s 100 primary care physicians and nurse practitioners by appealing to companies with self-funded medical benefit plans.

Providence Health Care this summer unveiled its own CareUnity plan, which leverages its position as the region’s largest medical provider. It has about 700 doctors and advanced care providers in Spokane and Stevens counties and owns Sacred Heart Medical Center and Holy Family Hospital.

The July announcement by Providence focused on the organization’s partnership with Group Health and work with insurers and businesses with self-funded plans to contain costs by offering coordinated care.

A brief description of the new Rockwood plan notes that employees and their covered dependents will have neither co-pays nor deductibles for most primary care services at clinics run by Rockwood, along with common lab work, most X-ray tests and visits to urgent care clinics. Furthermore, Rockwood says there will be discounts for visits to Rockwood specialists, surgeries, and hospital care at Deaconess and Valley.

Rockwood is rolling out more details of its new plan today at an 11 a.m. press conference. That event also will include the partners that helped design and will administer the plan, including On Stage Health, Rehn & Associates, and PayneWest Insurance.

“The idea here is to drive the care of patients back to the doctors, not hospitals,” said Dan McMahon, a sales executive with PayneWest.

He said while the deepest cost savings of the Affinity plan will be centered around care provided by Rockwood, there are other network options within the plan that are competitive on price. Those include options to use outside doctors, specialists and hospitals including those of competitor Providence Health Care.

Mark Newbold, an employee benefits adviser at commercial brokerage Moloney+O’Neill, said such plans only will work if they result in savings for businesses and employees.

“We welcome these initiatives … if it drives down the cost of care. That would be a win and that’s what we’ll be watching for,” he said.

Companies have been steadily moving toward self-funded plans. The Kaiser Health Foundation reports that 60 percent of eligible companies now offer self-funded coverage to employees, up from about 40 percent in 1999.

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