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BLUE CROSS & BLUE SHIELD OF OHIO AGREES IN PRINCIPLE TO BUY UNITED HEALTH PLAN, INC., 9,000-MEMBER COLUMBUS HMO

 CLEVELAND, Jan. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Ohio (BCBSO) has agreed in principle to purchase Columbus-based United Health Plan, Inc. (UHP), a 9,000-member health maintenance organization, which will become part of BCBSO's statewide HMO Health Ohio network.
 United Health Plan has been a subsidiary of Doctors Hospital in Columbus since March 1987, and has facility contracts with three other medical centers in Central Ohio.
 The transaction was approved by Doctors Hospital Trustees on Jan. 18, 1993. It is also subject to the approval of the BCBSO Board and the Ohio Department of Insurance. Details of the agreement were not released.
 "United Health Plan is a solid, well-respected health maintenance organization that will give us a significantly stronger presence in Central Ohio," said Lee J. Helis, BCBSO executive vice president, statewide operations.
 "This enables us to provide even better and more convenient service for existing customers -- especially those employed by the State of Ohio -- and further enhances our ability to serve the thousands of state employees eligible for coverage by one of our managed-care products under our new contract with the state."
 Added Helis: "As Ohio's oldest and largest health insurer, we have the ability to offer quality health care at very favorable prices; these are among the many advantages we bring to United Health Plan customers and potential customers in Greater Columbus and Central Ohio."
 BCBSO last summer signed a new three-year contract with the state for managed-care coverage, which contains provisions for a two-year extension.
 During open enrollment under the new state contract, BCBSO last October added approximately 500 state employees as new HMO Health Ohio customers, the majority of them in the Columbus area, Helis said.
 About 47 percent of UHP's members are state employees, Helis added.
 "This is a logical decision for an organization that has been committed to quality, accessible healthcare at reasonable prices throughout its 52-year existence," said Richard A. Vincent, chief executive officer of Doctors Hospital.
 "We have carried out our missions with the community's best interest in mind and accepting the BCBSO proposal makes good sense," Vincent said. "The strength, experience, and resources of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Ohio serve to augment our ongoing commitment to our community."
 BCBSO provides health care coverage for more than 1.5 million Ohioans, and its combined HMO and Super Blue preferred provider networks make up one of the largest alternative delivery systems in the state, with more than 300,000 members.
 BCBSO reported revenues of more than $1.4 billion in 1991 and has current reserves for the protection of policyholders in excess of $205 million.
 Both Helis and Vincent said coverage for UHP members will not change during their current contract period. Subsequent changes, if any, would be made to bring UHP coverage into harmony with HMO Health Ohio.
 United Health Plan, which began operations in August 1978, has 50 primary-care physicians and more than 200 specialists under contract.
 Earlier this month, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Ohio announced it had reached an agreement in principle with University Health Plan and University Health Maintenance Organization of Cincinnati that will make those organizations part of HMO Health Ohio. Under provisions of that agreement in principle, BCBSO would acquire assets of the two Cincinnati groups, including contracts with some 32,000 enrollees in the health maintenance plan.
 The parties anticipate reaching a final agreement within the next six weeks or so. This transaction is also subject to approval by the Ohio Department of Insurance.
 -0- 1/27/93
 /CONTACT: Paula Slimak or David Eden of William Silverman & Company, 216-696-7750, for Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Ohio/


CO: Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Ohio; United Health Plan, Inc. ST: Ohio IN: INS SU: TNM

BM -- CL026 -- 9731 01/27/93 14:03 EST
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Date:Jan 27, 1993
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