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 January 1, 1998

Kaiser continues to expand strong county presence

Sun MicroSystems of Broomfield has selected Kaiser Permanente to be one of the health-care options available to its employees beginning this month. So has Storage Technology of Louisville.

They join IBM, Neodata and the University of Colorado in offering this health maintenance organization, or HMO, to their employees.

In fact, Kaiser Permanente of Colorado has done so well in Boulder County that it has more subscribers (at about 26,500) than the next two largest competing HMOs combined. HMO Colorado (a Blue Cross Blue Shield product) is second with about 15,000 subscribers and Antero Healthplan (Mutual of Omaha) enrolls 11,000, according to The Business Report’s latest survey.

“We anticipate 300 members from StorageTek,” says Kathleen Bohland, Kaiser Permanente of Colorado public relations coordinator, “and 150 to 350 from Sun MicroSystems. We’ll probably get more membership at Sun as they increase their employee base.”

Kaiser Permanente of Colorado is a partnership between Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and the Colorado Permanente Medical Group, which provides comprehensive health care to Kaiser members. Kaiser differs from many HMOs in that its doctors are Kaiser employees instead of contractors hired from an independent group of physicians. Kasier’s “one-stop” facilities offer radiology, lab tests and prescriptions in addition to the services of medical personnel.

When asked to explain why Boulder County employers select Kaiser over other HMOs, Mike Alexander, Kaiser Permanente vice president and executive director for the Denver/Boulder market, says, “Employers assume, because of the bidding process, they will get good cost. Now they’re demanding standards of quality.”

In October, U.S. News & World Report gave Kaiser an independent vote of confidence in the quality of its health care. In an article entitled “America’s Top HMOs,” the magazine ranked Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Colorado ninth in the nation (of 223 HMOs).

It used data collected by the National Committee for Quality Assurance, a non-profit group that accredits HMOs. Kaiser Permanente Colorado, which received a four-star rating (out of four), was the only Colorado HMO to receive a top rating.

In 1996 Consumer Reports ranked Kaiser Permanente Colorado sixth of 37 plans in the United States, and Newsweek selected Kaiser Permanente Colorado as one of only four HMOs nationally to receive its “excellent” rating. No other Colorado plans made the list with either magazine.

Quality assurance programs abound at Kaiser.

Kaiser has mailed, for example, about 250,000 follow-up questionnaires to patients in Boulder County to measure their satisfaction with physician communication. The survey includes questions such as, “Did the physician treat you with respect and courtesy?” and “Are the terms that were used easy to understand?” Physicians who receive below-average scores are offered communication classes, says Dr. Albert Mehl, Boulder pediatrician and director of physician training and development.

In addition to Kaiser’s reputation for quality, “our long-term presence in Colorado is another factor in our popularity,” Alexander says. Kaiser is the oldest managed care in Colorado, and it’s the oldest, at over 50 years, in the United States. Kaiser has had a 10-year presence in Boulder County.

“Employers like how they work with us,” adds Alexander. “They don’t have the same amount of claims management, because people prepay. There are no claims. And our one-stop’ care of integrated services gives us a competitive advantage, too.”

Kaiser is popular with employers, too, because of the satisfaction of its employee subscribers.

Trigg Noyes, a Boulder resident and IBM retiree, is an enthusiastic Kaiser Permanente member. He joined Kaiser 12 years ago to avoid the paperwork associated with Medicare and Medicaid. Noyes has had the same primary physician from the beginning. “He refers me to specialists when needed,” says Noyes, “and they’re good — not fly-by-night.”

When Noyes first started with Kaiser, he had to wait weeks for an appointment. “But that’s not the case any more. I can get an appointment in literally hours.”

Noyes recently underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer. “I’ve never seen a bill, even though I’m sure my month-long stay in the hospital cost $100,000.”

Because of its growth in Boulder County, Kaiser Permanente has begun construction on a new medical office at 580 Mohawk Drive near Baseline Road in East Boulder. Scheduled to open in summer 1998, the facility will employ about 60 people and will provide outpatient primary care, pharmacy, X-ray and laboratory services.

The existing Boulder Medical Office at 2525 13th St. and Longmont Medical Office at 2235 Bent Way will continue to serve Boulder County subscribers. Mental-health services will move from Longmont to the East Boulder facility.

Kaiser Permanente has an exclusive relationship with Boulder Community Hospital. “Fifteen to twenty percent of the revenue at Boulder Community is Kaiser Permanente,” says Alexander, “so we’re a very large player there.”

Sun MicroSystems of Broomfield has selected Kaiser Permanente to be one of the health-care options available to its employees beginning this month. So has Storage Technology of Louisville.

They join IBM, Neodata and the University of Colorado in offering this health maintenance organization, or HMO, to their employees.

In fact, Kaiser Permanente of Colorado has done so well in Boulder County that it has more subscribers (at about 26,500) than the next two largest competing HMOs combined. HMO Colorado (a Blue Cross Blue Shield product) is second with about 15,000 subscribers…

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