Hospitals become health insurers

By Ilene MacDonald

2015 also saw more hospitals interested in launching their own health insurance plans.

Although large healthcare systems, like Geisinger Health Systems in Pennsylvania have had their own health plans for years, the new private insurance exchanges as part of the Affordable Care Act make it easier for hospitals to launch their own plans. Among the newer players: Cone Health In Greensboro, North Carolina.

Among our most popular stories this year was a special report in May that examined the growing trend of provider-insurers and interviewed new and established players about the challenges and opportunities that hospitals must consider before tackling this new business line.

It's certainly not one that hospitals should take lightly. It takes a big investment and it can take quite awhile before the business generates an income, noted Eric R. Wagner, executive vice president for insurance and diversified operations at MedStar Health, the largest non-government healthcare provider in the Baltimore-District of Columbia region.

"It is a very difficult business," he told FierceHealthcare. "There is more volatility associated with insurance. You need to be prepared mentally to take on that volatility and truthfully not to panic when you have a bad month."

For example, Wagner said, a bad flu season that hits in February can mean lots of claims and high costs that make that month's bottom line look bad.

Hospitals become health insurers