Ohio insurer says hospital merger will raise rates, reduce competition

An Ohio insurance company says the proposed merger of two hospitals in West Virginia will reduce competition and raise rates in the area, reports the Dayton Daily News.

West Virginia United Health System plans to buy St. Joseph's Hospital and make Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital an affiliate. However, The Health Plan of the Upper Ohio Valley voiced concerns in a recent letter to the West Virginia Health Care Authority.

"The Health Plan feels that the purchase and/or affiliation of the hospitals in question will result in an anti-competitive situation and immediately increase hospital rates in the future for the healthcare purchasing public in the Parkersburg area and is not in the best interest of the citizens of the state of (West Virginia)," wrote Robert C. Kota, general counsel for insurance company.

The deal to bring St. Joseph and Camden-Clark under the WVUHS umbrella has already been approved by the Federal Trade Commission and was expected to be completed by Feb. 1, according to Becker’s Hospital Review. The groups are now working to schedule a hearing, which is not expected to occur until next year, thus delaying the merger.

Greg Smith, director of marketing for Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital, responded to The Health Plan's opposition to the merger. "This is an HMO company that is not even in our area and they do less than 1 percent business here. I can't understand this," he told the Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

For its part, Mountain State Blue Cross Blue Shield, whose headquarters are in Parkersburg, sent a letter to the state healthcare authority saying it would "not participate in any WVHCA Board proceeding in the matter."

To learn more:
- read the Parkersburg News and Sentinel story
- see the Dayton Daily News article
- check out the Becker’s Hospital Review piece

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