What does Anthem's Vivity collaboration mean for the healthcare industry?

The recent announcement that Anthem Blue Cross is partnering with seven major hospitals in the Southern California area to launch an integrated care program has been met with lots of publicity, including our own coverage of the venture.

The collaboration, which is called Anthem Blue Cross Vivity and includes UCLA Health and Cedars-Sinai, aims to compete with other successful integrated health systems like Kaiser Permanente, which provides care that's up to 20 percent below market average costs.

With Anthem Blue Cross Vivity, Anthem will offer large employers less-costly coverage for members who use in-network hospitals and doctors. That in and of itself isn't particularly innovative or unique, since insurers and providers have shared savings and risks for years across different markets.

But what's so special about Vivity, as a California Healthline article points out, is the way it's structuring the financial model.

"My understanding is that forming a separate LLC where all eight entities are partners in a new venture--that arrangement is unique," Darrell Ng, public relations director for Anthem, told Healthline.

And Deborah Kelch, director of California's Health Insurance Alignment Project, said that if Anthem can follow through with its intention to share electronic data and move toward vertical integration, "it will be noteworthy."

If Anthem and the hospitals are successful with the Vivity venture, more integrated health systems may be popping up across the country. It's currently available to companies with at least 50 employees as well as CalPers.

But Anthem officials are interested in expanding. "We'll definitely be looking for other places where this model makes sense, but we want to make sure we get things up and running smoothly before we stared to look at other geographical possibilities in California and perhaps elsewhere, as well as expanding to small group and individual markets."

In fact, Anthem said it has received interest in Vivity from healthcare organizations outside of California, though Ng declined to disclose any further information.

Stephen Shortell, a former dean of UC-Berkeley's School of Public Health, also believes that similar integrated partnerships will continue to grow throughout the healthcare industry.

"I think it will be interesting to watch what happens. I think we're going to see within the state more experimentation with global payments and global risk and more movement away from fee-for-service," he told Healthline.

Personally, I hope that Anthem and other insurers can help grow the integrated health system model. Promoting collaboration among insurers and providers while exchanging patient information is key to improving our healthcare system as well as lowering costs. - Dina (@HealthPayer)

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