Aurora and Anthem launching new insurance company

Aurora Health Care is diving into the insurance industry by launching an insurance company with Anthem.

It adds another provider-owned health plan in Wisconsin and is the latest health care partnership announced in the state. But the leaders of the new insurer, the Wisconsin Collaborative Insurance Company, said the venture is of a much larger scale.

“It’s simply not every day you see two of the state’s biggest names in health care getting together,” Larry Schreiber, who’ll be the company’s CEO, said in a conference call.

Schreiber, who’s now based in New York, was until recently the president of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Wisconsin. He’ll lead the company with John Foley, who’ll be president of the venture and remain as Aurora’s senior VP of business development.

The company, which was licensed by state regulators this week, will provide care in 45 counties and lists several Wisconsin health systems in its network. Anthem and Aurora will co-own the venture and each put in $5 million to help start up the company. They might add some jobs here and there, but existing employees will do the bulk of the work, the leaders said.

The move makes Aurora another health care system across the country that’s getting into the health insurance business. That trend, which took off in the 1990s, is picking up again as health systems look to control costs and respond to the Affordable Care Act.

“They want to be managing as much as the premium dollars as they can, and not just be a supplier to the insurance company,” said Minnesota-based consultant Allan Baumgarten, who tracks the Midwest health care industry.

Foley said the new company will try to move away from “sick care,” or treating a patient once they’re already ill.

By better analyzing customer data, Foley said, the company will be able to ensure they’re healthy so fewer of them need care. That means they might improve disease education efforts or ensure people actually pick up the medicine their doctors prescribe.

“We’ll be able to act on those numbers,” Foley said.

The company will begin offering its commercial health insurance product, Well Priority, in mid-2016. It’s not planning on participating on the exchange in 2017, but will consider it the year after. It also will consider offering Medicare and Medicaid options.

— By Polo Rocha,