Blue Cross, Emory discussing new initiative

Emory Healthcare and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia said Monday they are working together on a major initiative that will improve the quality and efficiency of Georgia’s health care system.

The announcement was the latest sign that Atlanta’s health care marketplace is transforming into one where health care providers work together to try to achieve better results.

Emory and Blue Cross refused to describe exactly what the initiative would bring to the Atlanta market, but the companies said an announcement would be coming soon.

“This is an exciting opportunity that we strongly believe will have a profound and positive impact not only on the way care is delivered throughout the state, but it will also better manage health care costs,” John Fox, Emory Healthcare’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia is the state’s largest insurers. Emory Healthcare is one of Georgia’s largest and most influential healthcare providers.

Last month, two other major Atlanta health systems — Piedmont and WellStar — announced plans to form an insurance company that they believe will allow them to improve both efficiency and quality.

These shifts are part of vast changes in the insurance and healthcare marketplace being driven by the federal health care law and the private marketplace.

Bill Custer, a healthcare expert at Georgia State University, said Monday’s announcement is part of an important shift in which insurers are partnering up with providers to improve health care instead of simply processing claims.

“The promise is that we’re going to get more efficient, effective care,” Custer said.

Custer said consumers may find they have somewhat less choice in new plans that push patients to select providers from within one or two health systems. But the changes are designed to benefit consumers in many ways, he said.

“I would expect we’re going to see more of these types of arrangements,” Custer said.

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