Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Cigna, Priority Health Form Strategic Alliance For Employer Plans

Cigna, Priority Health Form Strategic Alliance For Employer Plans

By Kelsey Waddill

- Priority Health and Cigna are creating a strategic alliance to offer greater in-network options for employer-sponsored health plans in Michigan, the payers announced.

“This Strategic Alliance with one of the fastest growing networks in the state will give greater choice to employers, and will help us achieve our goals of improving whole person health, and providing access to more affordable, predictable and simple health care for our Michigan clients and customers,” said Brian Marsella, Midwest market president for Cigna.  “Working together in partnership, we will also focus on improving community health in Michigan.”
The alliance will start on January 1, 2021 and will spark four main changes.

First, Priority Health providers will now become in-network for Cigna members on employer-sponsored health plans. This network spans 97 percent of the significant care providers in the state. It also will give more access to specialists for Cigna customers.
Second, Priority Health members will likewise have access to Cigna’s network, if they are in Priority Health’s service area. This includes Cigna’s national network of specialists and providers.
As a result of Priority Health’s strong statewide presence and Cigna’s national standing, the payers expressed that consumers would also experience greater ease accessing in-network care both in Michigan and nationwide.
Lastly, employers with group health insurance plans would have better access to data and programs through Priority Health and Cigna’s combined resources.
The two payers already have a history of collaboration. In 2018, Cigna and Priority Health began offering employer solutions together. This move to form a strategic alliance aims to streamline and simplify processes for members and employers both in- and out-of-state through greater coordination between the two partners.
Importantly, strategic alliances are not the same as mergers and acquisitions. According to Cigna’s website, a strategic alliance is “a joint offering with another business organization that is governed by a legal agreement.” In such cases, both of the payers could share responsibility for plan administration and patients may have access to both of the plans’ provider networks.
The major payer has four other existing strategic alliances with TUFTS Health Plan, also known as CareLink, Health Alliance Plan, HealthPartners, and MVP.
“We are excited to bring this expanded Cigna partnership into market, which offers a competitive network solution and highlights our shared capabilities for more affordable, comprehensive health care coverage that best serves employers, their employees, and their families,” said Rick Morrone, senior vice president employer solutions for Priority Health. “Our team is continuously looking for ways to provide more value, and this enhanced, Strategic Alliance with a trusted partner is a natural next step.”
Early on in the year, it was clear that Cigna would be focusing on strategic partnerships in 2020. The payer kicked off 2020 still closing out its Express Scripts acquisition. But in addition to this partnership, which was already in the pipeline, the payer detailed three new partnerships in its 2019 fourth quarter earnings call.
First, Cigna was looking to boost its pharmacy network. As a result, the payer announced it would be pursuing a partnership with Prime Therapeutics.
Second, Cigna pointed to its partnership with the venture-capital funded payer Oscar Health, which is designed to offer small business solutions. This partnership would form a new brand altogether, one that serves mainly small businesses with understanding 100 employees.
Lastly, the payer said it would be exploring partnerships with preferred provider organizations. These partnerships would multiply provider options for Cigna’s growing Medicare Advantage population.
The year began with the expectation that new partnerships would define payer identity. While the coronavirus pandemic caused payers to redirect their focus, it also shed light on areas in their relationships and infrastructures that needed reinforcement. In some cases, this may make the need for payer partnerships even greater.
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