Highmark, Geisinger create joint venture community-based clinical network

Geisinger Health System faciliity
A new joint venture between Highmark Health and Geisinger aims to improve health access, starting with a four-county region in north central Pennsylvania, officials said this week. (Geisinger Health System)

Geisinger Health System and Highmark Health are officially launching a new nonprofit healthcare organization as part of a previously announced clinical joint venture.

Under an agreement between the physician-led system—which covers more than 3 million residents in Pennsylvania and New Jersey—and the insurance company, the new organization will develop new facilities to improve health access in a four-county region in north central Pennsylvania, officials said this week.

Their partnership also leverages existing Geisinger Clinics and Careworks Urgent Care facilities as key access points in Lycoming, Clinton, Tioga and Sullivan counties. If successful, the organizations may expand the model to other locations.

"Geisinger and Highmark have worked together for many, many months to design a collaboration that will bring innovation, value-based care models to consumers," said Highmark Health Plan President Deborah Rice-Johnson in a statement.

RELATED: Geisinger Health System and Highmark announce plans to create a new community-based clinical network

The project will include a two-story facility to be constructed in Lock Haven, which will include a walk-in urgent care center, adult and pediatric primary care, imaging and lab services as well as a specialty clinic. In Williamsport, a three-story, 119,500-square-foot hospital and healthplex will be constructed and include emergency, routine and acute care needs. It will also offer medical oncology and general surgery services and 20 inpatient beds.

Officials said the organizations are committing more than $100 million to improve existing clinical facilities, develop new facilities and expand services. The community-based clinical network will be open to Highmark and Geisinger Health Plan members, including those in Medicare Advantage Plans, as well as members of other insurance plans not affiliated with the two organizations.

It will also work with independent physicians and community-based hospitals in the region, including University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

The new arrangement stands in contrast to the intrastate relationship between UPMC and Highmark, which health advocates have said threatens to disrupt patient access to care. A longstanding feud between UPMC and Highmark led to the Pennsylvania attorney general to recently file suit claiming UPMC is not living up to its charitable obligations as a nonprofit, with the goal of pushing it into a new, long-term deal with Highmark.

UPMC filed a countersuit saying he is unlawfully meddling and does not have the authority to force it into a deal with rival Highmark.