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Cedar Valley hospital systems partnering to offer health insurance
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Cedar Valley hospital systems partnering to offer health insurance

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WATERLOO — Health insurance offerings for the Cedar Valley now include options provided in partnership with both of the region’s hospital systems.

Area residents could get an individual or family policy starting in 2021 with the tech-driven health insurance company Oscar, a new in-network provider for MercyOne hospitals in 23 Iowa counties.

Or they could get a policy provided through an employer by HealthPartners UnityPoint Health. The insurance company, started by UnityPoint Health’s Iowa hospital network in 2017, also provides Medicare Advantage products to individuals.

Beginning in January, it is marketing insurance to companies with 10-50 employees. Previously, the insurer had only worked with larger companies.

MercyOne and New York City-based Oscar recently announced their partnership for counties including Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan and 20 others. MercyOne-Northeast Iowa includes medical centers and other facilities in Waterloo, Cedar Falls and Oelwein.

“As part of MercyOne’s mission, we are working to expand access to health care for Iowans, which includes helping expand the opportunities Iowans have for insurance coverage,” said Kassi Hoxmeier, a Clive-based communications director for the medical system. “Oscar and MercyOne are committed to keeping the costs of our members’ care both low and affordable.”

The insurance provider’s aim “is to deliver a better experience with more savings,” Mario Schlosser, Oscar’s chief executive officer and co-founder, said in a news release.

Bloomington, Minn.-based HealthPartners is also focused on helping people to access high-quality affordable care.

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“They’ve been in the market in Minneapolis for over 60 years now,” said Becky Woody, president of HealthPartners UnityPoint Health. The company “saw an opportunity to replicate that model in Iowa.” A joint venture was established with UnityPoint Health in Des Moines to come into the state’s insurance market.

UnityPoint Health-Allen Hospital is part of the medical system’s network along with its other Cedar Valley facilities. Kristin Schaefer, accountable care organization development specialist for the Waterloo hospital, called the partnership a shared vision.

“I think it’s that care and coverage, how we show up together,” she explained. The insurer and medical system take a collaborative approach “when we look at health not being just the absence of disease.”

HealthPartners UnityPoint Health offers insurance products “that are specific to where UnityPoint Health has their facilities,” said Woody. “But for those individuals who may not have access to a UnityPoint Health facility, we have an open product, as well.” That allows for coverage to employers throughout the state and a partnership with Cigna expands the network outside of Iowa during customers’ travels.

At this point, Oscar’s plans can be used across MercyOne’s network in the 23 Iowa counties spread all over the state. Oscar members have dedicated care teams that include a care guide, a nurse who knows their medical history and a social worker.

The company places an emphasis on remote medical care where possible and appropriate, including 24-hour daily access to Oscar Virtual Urgent Care providers at no cost. Certain prescriptions are available at no cost through those providers, as well.

“The patient’s care needs in partnership with their provider will determine if telehealth is an option to deliver the best health outcome and experience,” said Hoxmeier. “As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, access to telehealth plays an important role in helping ensure access to care.”

HealthPartners UnityPoint Health provides virtual care as a way to offer more options and convenience for patients. Affordability is also important for the company.

“What we typically focus on through our joint venture is how we can affect the total cost of care,” said Woody, while keeping people healthy. When patients do get sick, their approach is intended to recognize a disease early and support them with the best resources at the most affordable cost, she added. “So it’s a collaborative effort that we bring to the market that we believe is unique and different.”

Open enrollment is underway with both companies, including Medicare Advantage recipients. Learn more about their insurance products online at healthpartnersunitypointhealth.com or hioscar.com. Options to sign up during open enrollment are also available at healthcare.gov.

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Education Reporter

I cover local schools and higher education for The Courier, where I’ve been a reporter for the past two decades. I’m a Minnesota native and have previously worked for newspapers there and in Illinois.

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