Spectrum disputes editorial

March 14, 2011
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In the Grand Rapids Business Journal editorial of Feb. 28, you questioned Spectrum Health’s commitment to the community, going as far as accusing us of violating the “merger compact.” The premise for your editorial was built upon misinformation and inaccuracies.

In the nearly 14 years since the merger, Spectrum Health’s commitment to the community has been nothing short of spectacular:

  • The Medical Mile in Grand Rapids has developed into an extraordinary resource of world-class health care facilities and services not previously available, including the new Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital;

  • Spectrum Health has been named by Thomson Reuters as one of the top 10 health care systems in the nation;

  • Spectrum Health is now the largest employer in West Michigan and has invested nearly $1 billion in capital in the region;

  • Priority Health’s premiums rank in the lowest quartile when benchmarked against regional competitors.

Our Board of Directors is deeply involved and invested in West Michigan. Spectrum Health’s entities are governed by several community boards that represent the health and business leadership of West Michigan. We are scrupulous in monitoring our compliance to the consent decree that gave birth to Spectrum Health and abide by both its terms and its spirit. Our adherence to that consent decree is reviewed annually with the Finance Advisory Committee and its report is published on our website for anyone to review. The committee, agreed to in perpetuity as part of the consent decree, includes business community representatives.

Your argument that Spectrum Health’s actions are monopolistic is unfathomable, since Blue Cross dominates approximately 70 percent of the state insurance market. In fact, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Attorney General of Michigan have filed suit against Blue Cross, alleging serious antitrust law violations. According to the government’s complaint, Blue Cross’ anticompetitive conduct has harmed competition and resulted in increased health care prices for Michigan employers and patients.

The current conflict with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan results from our decision not to participate with their Medicare Advantage product. After careful review, Spectrum Health chose not to expand our relationship with Blue Cross at this time. Several other hospitals in Michigan, including Bronson Healthcare Group in Kalamazoo, reached a similar decision.

We also accept many Medicare products — just not the Medicare Advantage product. This issue would not exist if Blue Cross had properly informed its subscribers of Spectrum Health’s decision not to participate and didn’t charge such large fees for out-of-network coverage.

Spectrum Health, in contrast, has long led the health care industry in transparency, posting our prices and quality data online and providing assistance to patients in determining out-of-pocket costs in advance, in addition to posting quarterly and annual financial information. No one else in West Michigan makes such comprehensive cost and quality data available to the community.

Spectrum Health is a model of community commitment. We work to increase that commitment every day. Our organization works to bring the highest quality health care to individuals and families in our region. We have and are fulfilling the promise to the merger.

In the future, we strongly encourage you to verify the facts before questioning

Sincerely,
Timothy O’Donovan, Chairman
Spectrum Health System Board of Directors

Richard C. Breon
President and Chief Executive Officer

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