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With expansion, SHP looks forward to future

August 12, 2011
By JOHANNA BOYLE ( , Journal Ishpeming Bureau

MARQUETTE - Accountable care organization Superior Health Partners has four new affiliates, allowing three Upper Peninsula hospitals and an insurance provider to work together with Marquette General Hospital.

In an announcement Thursday afternoon, SHP Board Chair Tim Larson named Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Dickinson County Healthcare System, Portage Health and Baraga County Memorial Hospital as affiliates of SHP.

"By alining themselves with the mission of Superior Health Partners, these organizations have made a commitment to strengthen health care in the Upper Peninsula in order to benefit patients and their communities," Larson said. "U.P. residents will see the community health care organization remain independent, while the affiliation with SHP will strengthen each hospital's ability to compete with out of state health care providers, which in recent years have systematically tried to steer specific health care services out of the Upper Peninsula."

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The announcement, made at the Blue Cross Blue Shield office in Marquette, was attended by Larson; Thomas Noren, senior vice president for SHP and MGH; Patrick Prichard, director of Upper Peninsula Regional Sales and Operations and West Michigan Regional Initiatives for BCBSM; Jim Bogan, president and CEO of Portage Health; John Schon, administrator and CEO of Dickinson County Healthcare System; and Tim Zwickey, CEO of Baraga County Memorial Hospital.

"About a year ago, Superior Health Partners was formed in order to provide a foundation for the structured alliance of healthcare providers with a common vision and commitment. We have a long-term strategy of bringing greater access to health care and high quality while doing it efficiently to reduce costs," Noren said. "ACO's depend upon the collaboration, the working together, the synergisms that come with health care organizations combining their talents in order to reduce health care costs, as well as to increase quality and service to patients."

The representatives of the four new affiliates said they expected their organizations to benefit from the partnership.

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"We currently have a very good relationship with the entities that you see before you today. This I see as just strengthening that relationship and that partnership... to provide quality, accessible care at a reasonable price," Prichard said. "A lot of care does go out of state ... We hope to curb that out state migration."

"This is the beginning of a journal that has been grounded in a historical past that relates to a very strong relationship that Portage has had with Marquette General for many many years. The vast majority of our patient referrals out of our community come to Marquette. We see that continuing and strengthening as we go forward," Bogan said.

Particularly for counties and medical facilities located along the border with Wisconsin, the issue of patients leaving the area is a serious one.

"You look at the three communities across the southern border, maybe a third of the health care (going out of the U.P.) is leaving," Schon said. "I think it's a partnership such as this... that really allows us to provide that comprehensive care that allows us to serve our patients better."

Communities with issues such as high unemployment, like Baraga County, will also be expected to see the benefits of SHP.

"One of the things I was interested in becoming a part of this is the fragmentation of health care not only in the region but also across the country. This allows us to share information on a real-time basis to increase the quality of care, which equates to lower costs in providing health care, which I think for the organizations will assist in sustainability," Zwickey said. "... For me it was a protection strategy and a job growth strategy."

Larson said adding other hospitals and healthcare organizations to SHP would be something the organization would be "continually working on," although names of future additions were not mentioned at the press conference.

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Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.



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