“December 8, 1997 Intelligence: Late Breaking Lab News”

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Fast-growing specialty test provider SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. of Houston, Texas announced the acquisition of Southwest Hemostasis and Oncology Consultants, Inc. (SHOC) of Dallas, Texas. SpectraCell offers assays that perform functional intracellular analyses of vit- amins, antioxidants, minerals and amino acids.

SpectraCell’s recent introduction of a homocysteine test and a Cardiovascular Risk Assessment Panel spurred its interest in acquiring SHOC. Under the direction of Chairman and CEO William Stanberry, Jr., SpectraCell is a fast-growing niche laboratory to watch.

Laboratories suspicious of “silent PPOs” should look to the example of North Carolina. Recent legislation now bans “silent PPOs.” These are arrangements where third parties make unauthorized use of provider discounts. North Carolina law now prohibits brokers from engaging in this practice. It also requires
the state insurance department to set limits on PPO products, including payment differentials, similar to rules governing HMO point-of- service products.


CalPERS, the California Public Employees Retirement System, provides coverage to more than 1 million beneficiaries. It announced an average premium increase of 3% for 1998. CalPers also declared its intent to seek bids for 1999 service from “lower-priced POS plans and exclusive provider plans.”

CalPers’ goal is to improve access to specialists, minimize disruptions in doctor-patient relationships and create better access to health- care in rural areas. CalPERS is closely watched as a market leader in the purchase of healthcare benefit programs. Besides signaling what kind of premium increase CalPERS deems reasonable for 1998, CalPERS’ actions towards smaller managed care plans indicates an interest in supporting innovative organizations.

Latest word from the Middle Tennessee Healthcare Network is that the lawyers continue to haggle over the paperwork needed to legally charter the organization. As reported earlier this year, network organizers expected to be finished with this step and operational by November. (See TDR, August 25, 1997.) With 13 hospitals participating, it takes the skills of a diplomat to properly address the different needs of each institution. The network now expects to become operational in the first months of 1998.

Maybe laboratories should deal themselves into risk-sharing arrangements with managed care plans. Deloitte & Touche surveyed 260 large hospital institutions and discovered that more than half of those involved in risk-sharing arrangements received a surplus last year. Just under half of primary care physicians reported a surplus from risk-sharing, and less than 40% of specialists earned a surplus. The surplus kicker on a risk-sharing agreement can supplement capitated payments by a worthwhile amount if utilization stays within targeted levels.


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