Company news

December 23, 2013

Even though St. Louis-based Ascension Health cut nearly 900 jobs this year from its Indianapolis-based hospital subsidiary, St. Vincent Health, it wants to add 549 more to its service center here by 2016. Ascension, the largest Catholic hospital chain in the nation, opened a service center in Indianapolis in June 2011, and has hired 500 people since then. The service center workers perform human resources, purchasing, bill payment and supply chain management for all of Ascension’s hospitals and hundreds of its other health care facilities. As part of the expansion over the next three years, the service center will provide support services to the entire Ascension chain, which includes 150,000 employees at more than 1,900 locations spread over 24 states and Washington, D.C. St. Vincent cut 865 workers at the end of June. The staff cuts, which represented 5 percent of St. Vincent’s total Indiana employment of 17,300, were brought on by lower-than-expected patient volumes, congressional budget cuts and slower-than-expected growth in reimbursement rates. St. Vincent’s announcement was the first of several by Indiana’s largest hospital systems. In October, Indiana University Health eliminated 935 positions. And in October, Franciscan Alliance cut 925 positions. The Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered Ascension up to $4.8 million in conditional tax credits and up to $200,000 in training grants, if Ascension adds all 549 jobs it has promised.

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, along with most other major insurers, will allow consumers who enroll in health plans through the new Obamacare exchanges 10 extra days to pay their first premiums and still gain coverage effective Jan. 1. That means consumers can wait to make their first payment until as late as Jan. 10. According to Bloomberg News, the Obama administration had asked insurers on Dec. 12 to give customers more time to pay and grant retroactive coverage. A few days of retroactive coverage is common in the health insurance industry. Anthem’s parent company, Indianapolis-based WellPoint Inc., will also let current members buy a new plan in the off-exchange individual market as late as Jan. 10 and still be covered retroactive to the first of the year. Many WellPoint and Anthem customers whose individual policies were canceled because the policies did not comply with Obamacare’s new rules, were automatically enrolled in a similar Obamacare-compliant plan off of the exchange. But now Anthem is allowing such customers to choose a different plan by the 10th of each month in either January, February or March.

Eli Lilly and Co., Pfizer Inc. and other large drugmakers will keep paying doctors to give talks about their products, leaving GlaxoSmithKline Plc alone for now in its decision to halt such compensation. According to Bloomberg News, United Kingdom-based Glaxo changed its policy after Chinese authorities accused the company of using cash and sexual favors to bribe doctors and health officials to promote product sales. But Lilly and other drugmakers say physicians are still in most cases the best source of information for their colleagues. “Few products in the world are as complex as an innovative medicine,” said Scott MacGregor, a spokesman for Indianapolis-based Lilly. He added that Glaxo’s move won’t change how Lilly does business. New York-based Pfizer, the world’s biggest drugmaker, is “committed to fairly compensating health-care professionals, clinical investigators and institutions for the work they do,” Dean Mastrojohn, a spokesman for the company, told Bloomberg.