Butting Heads

August 19, 2002
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The battle between Spectrum Health and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is evolving into, as DanDierdorf would say, "a real slobberknocker."

In reality, however, we should have seen this coming. Priority Health executives have long said 350,000 subscribers would be a "critical mass" point that would raise the insurer to another level. That point was reached recently, and look where we are now.

And the whispers have already been heard around town as to whether there is any relation between Spectrum's majority ownership of Priority Health and its battle with Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Spectrum cannot win the public relations battle. Blue Cross cannot win the battle on the business side. Who will give? Look for this one to go to the later rounds, most likely past the first Sept. 1 deadline.

Why? Because RickBreon is a businessman first. He has other people to look after the health side. The Spectrum CEO brought with him a reputation as a tough cookie (read: negotiator) when he arrived from Indiana. This is his kind of situation.

For its part, the Blues has a large subscriber market share and plenty of clout of its own. But as some in the medical community have said, it's unlikely the Blues will allow itself to be pushed out of the market. The "insurer of last resort" won't lose its share of West Michigan.

  • Does anyone else wonder if AeroMed will be used as a gunship when the talks between Spectrum Health and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan further deteriorate?

  • Remember the gnashing of teeth over the unfairness in the PET scanner scandal? All the scanners were in — gasp! — southeast Michigan, with nary one of the medical diagnostic tools to be found in little old West Michigan. That meant tons of travel for anyone locally who had to have the procedure performed.

And the soonest the west side could expect one, given the limitations of the Department of Community Health and its Certificate of Need administrative situation was, oh, about 17 years.

West Michigan caregivers cried foul and West Michigan politicians rushed to their aid, demanding equity in the process of PET scanners. Based on the hue and cry, one would have expected numerous deaths to be attributed to the lack of a West Michigan scanner.

Who could forget the impassioned campaign spearheaded by Sen. Bill VanRegenmorter, R-Georgetown Township, to get the latest in diagnostic equipment here?

The pols prevailed and got the rules changed so West Michigan hospitals, clinics and agencies could apply to DCH for PET scanners right now.

That was this spring. So, as summer wanes and fall knocks, how many local preliminary CON requests has the Alliance for Health seen for the PET scanners?

"Um, zero," said President LodyZwarensteyn

Why? Because Medicaid cut the reimbursement percentage for such procedures. Simply put, they aren't that profitable anymore.

  • Insiders in the Kent County Clerk's office say some "Stilly" primary election candidates had trouble measuring 100 feet, as in no political signs within 100 feet of a polling place door.

Maybe if they put football field yard markers closer to the entrances, candidates would have a better measurement aid.

Kent Clerk MaryHollinrake did not confirm who the offenders were, but said she expected to mail letters this week to the bad boys who (over)charged the finish line.

Alas, the memos will be of the slap-on-the-wrist variety, as Hollinrake said there "are no real penalties with teeth" to make them stop.

  • The campaign trail apparently has a fork in it, and Dick Posthumus and John Engler are heading in different directions.

Pols say the good guv has threatened our Dick, saying if Posthumus entertained an override vote he would refuse to help Posthumus in any way with his campaign.

So, based on last week's revenue sharing vote, the Business Journal is putting up a bounty on a campaign photograph. Get a shot of the state's two top GOPers together and send it in. We'll run the first one here in Street Talk, and credit you as the photographer. Of course, we reserve the right to write the photo caption.

One more thing: Make sure the photo is taken after Aug. 13.

  • As if the Engler/Posthumus tiff wasn't enough, the Michigan Democratic Party came up with an interesting attendance report card last week. The Dems claim good Dick has missed 55 of the 100 Senate sessions in 2001-02, meaning he has appeared to preside over the Senate less than half the time.

By comparison, they claim, ConnieBinsfeld showed up 79 percent of the time and even stayed for the entire session 31 percent of the time.

  • In the wake of the Exxon/Mobil deal and the AOL/Time Warner implosion, as well as the accounting scandals that are sending some firms into bankruptcy, there may be some opportunity to make money in the stock market if the next wave of mergers materializes.

Watch for these consolidations later this year and make yourself a bundle.

1. Hale Business Systems, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Fuller Brush and W.R. Grace Co. will merge and become Hale, Mary, Fuller, Grace.

2. Polygram Records, Warner Bros. and Zesta Crackers join forces and become ... Polly, Warner, Cracker.

3. 3M will merge with Goodyear and issue forth as MMMGood.

4. Zippo Mfg., Audi Motor Car, Dofasco and Dakota Mining will merge to become, of course, ZipAudiDoDa.

5. Federal Express is expected to join its major competitor, UPS, and consolidate as FedUP.

6. Fairchild Electronics and Honeywell Computers will become Fairwell Honeychild.

7. Grey Poupon and Docker Pants are expected to become Poupon Pants.

8. Knotts Berry Farm and the National Organization of Women will become Knott NOW!

9. "Stop and Shop" and "A&P" will combine. They will call themselves, for everyone's relief — "Stop and P."           

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