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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Conflicts Arise As Health Insurers Diversify

By Jay Hancock
Kaiser Health News
Originally published April 29, 2012

Like hospitals and doctorseverywhere, Banner Health fights a daily battle to get paid by insurance companies and government agencies for the care it delivers.

So the hospital system hired a company called Executive Health Resources to fight back against the likes of Medicare and UnitedHealthcare when they deny claims or pay bills for less than what Banner thinks it is owed.

But Banner executives began to worry about EHR's independence when the firm was acquired in 2010 by UnitedHealth Group, UnitedHealthcare's parent.

"It does seem as though there is reason for concern because they can use our own information against us," said Dennis Dahlen, CFO of the Phoenix-based Banner.

Critics call United's ownership of EHR a troubling conflict of interest that could give it confidential information about rivals as well as patients and limit EHR's power to demand payment from its much larger corporate sister. "How is that ownership going to affect the mission of a company whose business is to extract more money from payers?" said Scot Silverstein, a physician and specialist in medical software and patient records at Drexel University. "Imagine going to a plaintiff's lawyer to take your malpractice case and not knowing that plaintiff's lawyer actually works for the hospital that you're suing."

The entire story is here.