COEUR d'ALENE - Kootenai Health withdrew its employed physicians from the North Idaho Health Network, which was formed in 1994 to negotiate with health insurance companies.
Kootenai Health's doctors have been with the network for nearly 20 years. Now the hospital's exit will decrease the 320-doctor network by approximately 80 doctors, said Dr. Michael A. Dixon, the executive director of the network in Coeur d'Alene.
Other hospitals in North Idaho also have pulled out doctors, trimming the network to 220 doctors, reducing its influence in the process. The network works to give doctors a voice in decisions on patient care, and limit insurance company control.
The network has four employees, he said. The network makes most of its money by charging insurance companies access fees.
"Kootenai Health sees a different path to the future," Dixon said. "The path they're taking is to be the network, not to work with networks like this."
He said Kootenai Health and some other North Idaho hospitals want to grow through mergers and acquisitions. They want to control doctor referrals and keep patients within their smaller individual networks.
"Instead of working collaboratively with everybody, they feel that they have to have more control than that by actually controlling everything," Dixon said.
"In the past, Kootenai Health worked through the North Idaho Health Network to develop select agreements with some health insurance companies," Kootenai Health spokeswoman Kim Anderson said Friday. "Today, Kootenai has direct agreements with all the major insurance companies as well as Medicare and Medicaid."
She said there has been no effect to patients or patient care as a result of the transition.
Anderson said the network physician members expressed a desire to change the business model and operate as a physician-only organization.
"Following that announcement, Kootenai Health's board of trustees made a decision to withdraw from the network," she said. "The hospitals in Bonners Ferry, Kellogg, St. Maries and Sandpoint also decided to withdraw their memberships."
In the wake of changes, the North Idaho Health Network changed its name to Convergence Health Partners LLC. The change became official this week.
Convergence Health Partners' member doctors now have to become more "clinically integrated," which includes closer communication and expanded data sharing, Dixon said.
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