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Intermountain Healthcare would rather be known for its hospitals than for its commercial health plans, so on Monday Utah's largest provider of both announced it will rename its insurance business SelectHealth.
The switch from IHC Health Plans won't affect coverage or pricing or how the insurance company interacts with its medical providers. Still, said company officials, it should bring clarity to the different roles of IHC.
"Our research shows people have come to believe that IHC is an insurance company that also owns hospitals. This is designed to [correct] that imbalance," said spokesman Daron Cowley.
Skeptics won't have trouble identifying another motive. During the past two years, IHC has come under constant scrutiny by the Legislature. An entire task force was created last year to examine all that is right and wrong with IHC, including whether the company exploits its tax-exempt status, controls too much of the health care market, bullies the competition and deserves to be broken up. The debate has not been good for IHC's image, and the company has invested heavily in billboards, radio and newspaper advertisements emphasizing its medical care and community service.
Cowley insists the name change is not a response to criticism and, citing a November survey, says most Utahns have a positive view of the company.
If the IHC brand is as popular as ever and the name change is merely cosmetic, what's the point, wonders Jennifer Cannaday of Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield, which insures almost as many Utahns under its commercial plans as IHC.
"We would hope this is a step toward a little more separation of their health plan and hospitals, and not just a name change that gives the appearance of a distinction," Cannaday said. "Changing a brand is a pretty heavy duty step, and this [is] their second one."
Last year, IHC dropped the space between "Health" and "Care" to become Intermountain Healthcare.
l New name: IHC Health Plans is now SelectHealth
l New Web site: http://www.selecthealth.org
l New hours: Customers can call 7 a.m.-8 p.m. weekdays and, starting in May, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays