Kaiser said it would invest and spend a combined
"Kaiser Permenante is a health system, not just an insurer," said
The insurer operates differently than other carriers in that it runs its own medical centers, employing hundreds of medical and other staff at each center, and providing primary and specialty services directly to patients in an effort to coordinate care and control costs.
Already a dominant carrier in the
Kaiser first came to the region in 1980 and has been growing steadily. For example, it announced in April it would open a new
Other centers opened in
"I believe the Mid-Atlantic region, and especially Metro Baltimore, is being robustly targeted for further growth," he said.
"After studying them for over 30 years, I can say unequivocally, this is a good thing for local patients, the economy and the health care system at-large," Weiner said. "Given how successful [Kaiser] has been in terms of achieving great care for modest costs, perhaps they will also shake things up a bit when it comes to other local health plans or delivery systems."
An issue, he said, is that Kaiser hasn't been so successful in attracting patient outside of
Kaiser patients, for example, can't always tap services from the region's renowned specialists at
Mostly, he sees the move as a "full frontal assault on CareFirst," with the local economy benefiting from the investment in new facilities.
"For consumers, it might mean lower prices, but often in healthcare markets you see providers competing on quality, or perceived quality," he said. "Under this 'medical arms race' hypothesis, cost, and prices, grow in the effort to woo new customers. So the bottom line is that I would think of this primarily as an effort to grab customers from CareFirst."
CareFirst officials said they were reviewing Kaiser's announcement.
Kaiser officials say, however, more all-in-one centers can increase the availability of services for the region and could improve health and reduce hospitalizations by increasing preventive care and ensuring maintenance of care for chronic conditions.
In addition to the 13 new medical centers, Kaiser also will maintain two multi-specialty medical hubs. One is open in Halthorpe and the second will be included in the center in
Kaiser operates far more centers in the
A report conducted by the