Aug. 10-23, 2001
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U.Va. sells health insurance company
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Evaluations begin despite lack of state funds for raises

Thomas to speak on Bush
Deadline for Administrative Internship Program extended to Aug. 31

U.Va. sells health insurance company

By Dan Heuchert

University officials said July 30 that employees will see no change in their health benefits following the sale of Blue Ridge Health Alliance Inc., parent company of QualChoice of Virginia Health Plan, to a Maryland-based company. QualChoice administers U.Va.’s self-insured health plan.

“I want to assure you that this sale will not change your health benefits,” said Yoke San Reynolds, U.Va.’s vice president for finance, in an e-mail sent July 30 to University employees. “The only change for you and your dependents is that a different company will administer our plan.”

Premiums will not likely be affected in the short term, she said. “We do not anticipate that the sale will have any effect on your costs in 2002. If there are increases to the plan’s premiums or co-payments for next year, they will reflect the level of participants’ claims in 2001, as well as any changes or enhancements to the benefit package.”

Coventry Health Care Inc. of Bethesda, Md., which operates health plans and insurance companies covering 1.8 million people, mostly in the eastern United States, announced that it would acquire Blue Ridge Health Alliance for $12.5 million. The sale is expected to close in the fall.

As part of the sale, Coventry entered into a five-year provider contract with the U.Va. Medical Center and its physicians, represented by the U.Va. Health Services Foundation.

The University and the Health Services Foundation formed the Blue Ridge Health Alliance in 1994 as a for-profit corporation, and each entity still controls approximately 48 percent of the company. Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville became a minority shareholder in November 1995.

Blue Ridge’s QualChoice plan has approximately 110,000 members in central and southwestern Virginia, including 70,000 fully insured through group health plans.

he remainder are in employers’ self-insured plans — including the University of Virginia Health Plan — that have contracted with QualChoice to administer their health benefits. About 24,000 University employees, retirees and dependents are enrolled in the U.Va. Health Plan.

“Academic health systems are finding that the demands of operating managed-care organizations in today’s rapidly changing markets are a major distraction from their main missions,” said Leonard W. Sandridge, U.Va.’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. “We want to focus on what we do best: providing excellent healthcare, advancing medical research and preparing the next generation of doctors and nurses.”

“The Blue Ridge acquisition is another step in the continued building of our business,” said Allen F. Wise, Coventry’s president and chief executive officer. “Along with Southern Health, our existing Virginia HMO, this acquisition provides a strong platform in the Virginia market for continued profitable growth. In addition, I am especially pleased to have a continuing relationship with a premier health system like the University of Virginia to provide quality health care to our members.”

QualChoice of Virginia is headquartered in the U.Va. Research Park at North Fork. Martha D’Erasmo is president and CEO.



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