|By Lee Schafer, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
It is remarkable how well the two networks fit with each other, with very little overlap.
The merger was announced last week, and when it closes in January HealthPartners will have a network of clinics and other facilities that extends from Park Nicollet's bastion in the western suburbs of
The striking difference between the two organizations is that
As Park Nicollet President and CEO
And it's not just how
Abelson is a physician and internist who joined Park Nicollet in 1983 and became CEO in
In an interview with
While he had met Brainerd years before, he said, "I certainly realized then that we shared a common vision, particularly around affordability. To me that was an important meeting."
No merger discussion took place for more than a year as Abelson looked for the trends around payments and incentives to become clearer. The ground was just beginning to shift, as the old fee-for-service model that rewarded providers for just seeing patients or performing a procedure was on its way out in favor of paying doctors and hospitals for value.
With this change in payment incentives, the line gets blurred between what a health plan or health insurer does -- enroll members in a health insurance plan and cover the financing side of health care -- and what the clinic or hospital does in treating patients.
Put it this way: Before a health care provider like Park Nicollet would agree to take financial responsibility for the health of a whole group of patients, it had better be pretty sure that it knows what diseases that group had, what new conditions could be expected, and everything else it can to estimate what it would take to keep that population healthy.
"That was a capability we needed," Abelson said. "We do a great job one patient at a time. We had to understand the population, and understand their risk."
And with a strategy that meant accepting more and more of that risk, the appeal of a partnership with
This conversation with Abelson included Brainerd and took place in a conference room at
The combined organization will be called
Abelson will be leading the provider group, to be named the
The case Brainerd makes for the merger is that
And for both of them the remaining challenge is integrating two cultures that, while committed to common goals, assumed their approach was better.
"You have to show both proud cultures a higher purpose," Abelson said. "We really are involved in a higher purpose. Our enemy is not our competitors. Our enemy ... is a lack of health, and a lack of affordability."
(c)2012 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
Visit the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) at www.startribune.com
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