Covering The Spectrum

August 26, 2002
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OK, we know the Spectrum Health and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan spat is a big-time serious thing and has huge ramifications for this town. But does that mean we can’t have a little fun and crack a few jokes at their expense?

Course not.

So our question for today is: Of Spectrum Health CEO RickBreon and Blue Cross Blue Shield West Michigan Vice President DaleRobertson, which one is BudSelig and who is DonaldFehr

We certainly can see both sides to the issue and, as this point, make no judgment on who’s right and who’s wrong. But in pushing this battle, we can’t help but congratulate Spectrum Health on accomplishing something that many people considered impossible: Making some people actually feel sorry for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Now for the serious side.

When you stop and examine all the tangents and fallout from this war, you can’t help but conclude that no matter how it’s settled — and it will get settled eventually, because there is far too much at stake for both sides — there is the potential for any number of results. Here are just a few to consider:

  • Already we’re hearing voices in he community calling for a re-examination of the 1997 consent decree that blessed the Butterworth-Blodgett merger and gave life to Spectrum Health.

  • The Alliance for Health for years has held the view that a duplication of major medical services does no good for anybody; that it only dilutes market share and makes it more expensive to provide that service.

Given Spectrum’s grip on a few key services such as heart surgery and neo-natal care, Dr. JoeSage believes it’s time for the Alliance for Health to re-think that policy and look more kindly on requests from other hospitals when they want to initiate a major clinical service.

Like so many others in Grand Rapids, he worries about people’s ability to access care if they hold a Blues policy and need a procedure that only Spectrum offers locally.

“Do we have to take a totally new position?” said Sage, a surgeon at Metropolitan Hospital and a director at the Alliance for Health. “These patients will have a greatly difficult time in getting those services because of cost.”

  • And on Metro Hospital, is CEO MikeFaas counting his blessings because of all this? Has Spectrum just handed Metro the single biggest argument it can make in its upcoming case for a certificate of need to build a new hospital in Wyoming and make Metro a stronger, more viable competitor in the local health care market?

Rest assured there isn’t a hospital CEO in West Michigan, or all over the state for that matter, who isn’t rooting for a big Spectrum victory in its quest for increased reimbursement rates from the Blues.

Yet at the same time, they will gladly do everything they can to exploit the situation and bring additional business through their doors. Bottom line: Other hospital across West Michigan are putting their battle plans in motion to take in the patients who will likely avoid Spectrum if Spectrum carries through and de-participates in the Blues’ health plans.

No matter how this one ends, it is sure to test long-time business relations and surely lead to the creation of new ones.

  • Want further proof of Spectrum’s clout in certain areas? One of the world’s top heart surgeons is visiting Spectrum today and tomorrow to discuss with local physicians the latest in heart research. Sir Magdi Yacoub of Great Britain, the man who performed RichardDeVos’ heart transplant in 1997, also will be exploring shared research opportunities with the Spectrum Heart Health Center.

  • The Operations Committee of the Convention and Arena Authority got a bit closer to deciding who will drive the Michigan International Auto Show in 2004.

Richard Wendt, a partner at Dickinson Wright and legal counsel for the CAA, told committee members last week that they have the right to choose who produces the show, and that claims of antitrust practices and breach of contract assertions being thrown about by the two parties are not their concern.

“There is no question in my mind that this matter falls into your lap,” said Wendt.

“It’s our conclusion that you don’t have any legal liability one way or another,” he added.

The disagreement over who should produce the show is between Showspan Inc. and the Grand Rapids New Car Dealers Association. Showspan has produced the annual event since it began in 1999, while the dealers have organized and promoted it over the same time. But the two had a falling out following the last show held in February at the Grand Center.

The dealers have complained that Showspan hasn’t given them the financial information that is required in their contract, while Showspan has accused the association of trying to undermine the 2004 show. Both sides presented their case before the committee in June.

Operations Committee Chairman LewChamberlin said the next step was to have SMG, the firm that manages the Grand Center, look into the matter.

SMG General Manager RichMacKeigan said he would talk with management at other SMG venues and at company headquarters in Philadelphia to learn if an issue like this has happened in other buildings and, if so, how each was handled.

Board member JosephTomaselli suggested that whichever group was more likely to produce the better event, provide the best revenue stream and be able to repeat that performance should get the nod to produce the show.

The dealers and Showspan are working together on the 2003 show, the final year of the current contract. But the dealers association has already signed with another producer for the 2004 show.  

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